Double boost for China's Olympic hopes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am

China's hopeful march towards Olympic medals in women's tennis took its first tentative steps on two continents yesterday.

Down Under, the nation's number one Li Na emerged after a six-month injury lay-off to capture the Australian hard-court championship - her first WTA Tour title since 2004.

And while the Silver Group crown at the JB Group Classic here in Hong Kong certainly doesn't carry the same weight - or indeed the same prize money as that event - Li's compatriot Peng Shuai was delighted after defeating world number 60 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 4-6, 10-6.

Both Li and Peng (ranked 45 in the world) will be hoping to represent their country in the singles at the Beijing Games, and Peng said news of Li's victory had spurred her on.

'I heard that news this morning and it is great,' she said. 'Of course the Olympics are a big thing for both of us and we have been training together with the national squad off and on over the past few months.

'Last year it seemed everyone involved in the national team was fighting some kind of injury. The Olympics are a long way off and there are many tournaments to go before then but this is a great way for all of us to start the year.'

Matches against Venus Williams (a loss) and world number four Ana Ivanovic (a win) put Peng through to yesterday's final and she said the experience she had gained was vital.

'To play against these players is how you test yourself,' she said.