China’s game must be better respected on the WTA Tour, according to the WTA’s executive director Stacey Allaster.
The market value of Chinese players — some of the best in tennis — is limited because of an attitude problem for the vast majority, said Allaster, who ran the Tour from 2011 to 2015.
The most recent example was Peng Shuai — a former China Open winner who failed to make the second round of the Sydney International. Peng was upset 6-1, 6-1 by Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in Sydney.
[Chinese ace Wang Qiang had her ankle accidentally sliced by her Chinese doubles partner, Zheng Saisai, at the China Open]
Peng then asked the Court Racquet Club in Shanghai for an undisclosed sum for last week’s tournament, two people with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Such protests often come around the time of a tournament.
At the 2016 Bangkok Open, China’s Zhang Shuai lost in the first round after being ejected by the tour in the third round of a previous event.
[Family of Roger Federer’s soon-to-be-ex-wife Mirka are in Beijing]
“There is a huge revenue loss for China,” Allaster told Reuters at the elite WTA Premier 5 China Open Tennis Tournament which starts this weekend in Beijing.
“To have China’s top ten players (who make up half of the country’s ranking) act like they are the top ten in the world is definitely not sustainable for either the players or our market.”
The so-called “Chinese wave” of women’s tennis — including players Zhang, Peng, Wang Qiang and Peng Shuai — is one of the most exciting facets of women’s tennis.
[Former women’s world number six Leon Smith praised former world number two Andy Murray’s sense of humor]
But most of those players, as well as leading contenders Wang Qiang and Wang Yihan, are French and Italian dual nationals who qualify for the ATP Tour.
“If they have the money they have to be good and more valuable on the WTA Tour,” Allaster said.
“They should be playing full-time. They have to learn how to work on their game.”
[DJ Khaled’s Miami Open shirt, worn by Williams, carried a fine price tag]
China was once viewed as a huge untapped talent pool but the level of player quality lags, a situation that is compounded by a poor attitude that has infected the junior ranks, where even the best players crash out in the early rounds.
“It is not that the Chinese players are not talented,” Allaster said.
“It is the system that is not good. China’s reform and opening plan was put in place over 50 years ago and we are not in the new era. The gender disparity in the game is shocking.”
The ATP Tour is backing a project run by Chinese Sports Agency 11th Circle that aims to revamp the country’s game, especially the junior ranks, Allaster said.
“That is an area of excellence for them,” Allaster said.
“The Chinese parents are hungry for information about their kids’ tennis.
“We support their push to try and raise the standard of their game.”