Li excited by WTA urnament, Japanese camp still optimistic

Li excited by WTA urnament, Japanese camp still optimistic

SYDNEY / TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Li excited by WTA urnament, Japanese camp still optimistic

Chinese superstar Li Na says she is excited about the prospect of having a high-profile tournament in her hometown. REUTERS Photo

China’s top player Li Na said yesterday she was excited that a new tournament was coming to her “special” hometown in 2014, and added the decision showed the growing popularity of tennis in China.

The former French Open champion said she hoped her fellow players would take time out from the tournament so she could show them around Wuhan in central China. The Women’s Tennis Association on Jan. 9 named Wuhan as the host of a new $2 million tournament in 2014 to replace the 30-year-old Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo.

Asked about the new competition at the Sydney International tournament, where she was beaten in the semi-finals Thursday by Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska, Li said she was excited about the prospect.

“It’s special city for me. I was born there and grow up there,” she said, adding that if her friends on the tour have time, “I want to show them around my hometown.” Specifically, she said she planned to “show how good the food is”. However, she conceded that the demands of playing in a top-level tournament could mean not all would have time to take her up on the offer.

“It’s tough for the athletes if they come to a new tournament. They always have to adjust to the court, the weather, everything.” Asked why so many tournaments were now heading to Asia, Li quipped: “Because they have good economy.” She added: “I think it’s because tennis now in Asia has grown up a lot, and of course in China as well.

“So many children now pick up the tennis racket. So many sponsors watch the tennis tournaments. So I think this is the way.”

Pan Pacific hopes

Meanwhile, organizers of Japan’s Pan Pacific Open said they have not given up hope of remaining on the world tour.

“The 2014 calendar is still at a draft level,” an official from the Pan Pacific Open secretariat told AFP. “We are making arrangements with various parties concerned” to keep the event alive and on the list, possibly by overhauling its structure including the prize money, added the official.

Coupled with the inclusion of a lower-level “International” event in Hong Kong, China will host five of the 18 events in the Asia-Pacific in 2014. Japan is tentatively due to host one just one “International” event that year, the Japan Women’s Open.