Having failed to win any of the seven tennis titles at the 14th
Asian Games in Busan four years ago, China's tennis players head to
Doha determined to put the record straight.
China has topped the medals table at the past six Asian Games
but with the Olympics coming to Beijing in 2008, it is determined
to overhaul the United States as the top Olympic medal-winning
nation, with tennis among the sports it has targeted for
Top women's player Li Na, who plays on the World Tennis
Association (WTA) circuit and is ranked 21 in the world, will lead
the way in Doha.
The 24 year-old became the first Chinese woman to reach the
quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament by making the last eight
of the Wimbledon All-England Championships in July this year. She
has also surpassed Japanese veteran Ai Sugiyama, now ranked 26, to
become the top Asian player.
China's team also includes 20 year-old rising star, Peng Shuai,
who is ranked 55 by the WTA and became first Chinese player to
reach the last four of the China Open in September.
Both players will contest the singles title in Doha alongside 23
year-old Zheng Jie, ranked 33 in the world, who has also won both
the Australian and Wimbledon doubles titles with compatriot, Yan
The pair will be favourites for the doubles crown in Doha,
although they will be challenged by their compatriots and 2004
Olympic champions, Li Ting and Sun Tiantian, whose form has dipped
since their triumph two years ago despite tournament wins in
Thailand and Uzbekistan this year.
Other singles medal contenders include Japan's Aiko Nakamura,
Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, and Sania Mirza from India.
While China's women seem destined to dominate in Doha, it looks
like being a tougher proposition for its men.
None of China's top four, Yu Xinyuan, Wang Yu, Sun Peng and Zeng
Shaoxuan are in the top 400 of the Association of Tennis
Professionals (ATP) rankings, and all 18 of its qualifiers for the
China Open ATP tournament were knocked out in the first round.
In Doha, defending champion Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, and
Korea's Lee Hyung-Taik, who took silver four years ago, will fancy
their chances again with Chinese Taipei duo Wang Yeu-Tzuoo and Lu
Yen-Hsun also among the medal contenders.
In men's doubles, defending champions Leander Paes and Mahesh
Bhupathi from India will also start as favourites.
The Tennis championship at the 15th Asian Games runs 4 to 14
December at the Khalifa International Tennis and Squash
(dohaasiangames.org November 21, 2006)