Chinese are the coming force, says Serena

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 September, 2005, 12:00am

Serena Williams has seen the future of tennis - and it's Chinese.

The winner of seven grand slam titles reckons China's rising band of young players are poised to be a force in the women's game.

'Everyone's talking about the Russians but the ones to watch out for are the Chinese - they are definitely a growing force and I think they have a lot of talent,' the former world number one said yesterday.

'There are several Chinese players in the top 100 and I seem to have a match against one of them in every tournament.

'The Chinese girls are everywhere in the locker room and they're improving all the time. I really think Chinese tennis has a great future.'

Williams is in Beijing to defend her China Open title this week and, after receiving an automatic first-round bye, has an immediate chance to assess the strength of mainland tennis with a second-round encounter today against 23-year-old Sun Tiantian.

Sun, the 2004 Olympic doubles gold medal winner with Li Ting, was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Russia's Tatiana Panova yesterday.

Sun, ranked a lowly 127, refused to be overawed at the prospect of facing Williams.

'It's only by playing the top players that I can improve my ranking,' she said. 'I will just go out and do my best.'

Peng Shuei, the Chinese number one, joined Sun in the second round after crushing Finnish qualifier Emma Laine 6-1, 6-1 in a match lasting a mere 64 minutes.

American Jill Craybas handed China its only loss of a drizzly day, coming from behind to oust Li Na 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5.

The other Williams sister, Venus, enters the fray today when she comes up against Spain's Nuria Llagostera Vives, who defeated Russian Alina Jidkova 2-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-5), in the second round.

Japan's Aiko Nakamura advanced with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Italian Flavia Pennetta.

Russia's Mareia Kirilenko beat Jamea Jackson, of the United States, 7-5, 7-5 in the other first-round match.