Li Na's singles success fires ambitions of HK youngsters
The success of American-born Chinese player Michael Chang - who won the French Open men's singles title at the age of 17 in 1989 - inspired many Chinese children to start playing tennis.
Twenty-two years later, China's Li Na, 29, won the women's title at this month's French Open to become her nation's first grand-slam singles champion.
Her victory, watched on television by an estimated 118 million of her compatriots, means she will be the focus of Chinese attention at the Wimbledon Championships, which started in England yesterday.
Two of Hong Kong's top junior players, Leung Lok-sze and Kelvin Lam Siu-fai, told Young Post they have been inspired by Li's achievement.
'Li Na has taught me that we need to face our weaknesses if we want to become better players,' says Lok-sze, 18, a Form Six student at Diocesan Girls' School.
'Compared with her first grand-slam final at the Australian Open in January, when she lost, she was more consistent and attacked more aggressively to win the title.'
Lok-sze had not expected to see a Chinese player win a grand slam singles title for another decade. 'Before Li's victory, China's women players had already won doubles titles in the Olympics and grand slams. Now it is obvious that they have found the formula to succeed in singles,' she says.
Kelvin, 17, a Form Five student at Diocesan Boys' School, says: 'It was nice to see a Chinese player winning a grand-slam singles title. But I think it may take another 15 or 20 years for a Chinese man to win a grand-slam singles title. There isn't even a Chinese men's player in the top 100 in the world at the moment.'
Neither Hong Kong teenager is sure of turning professional in future. Lok-sze will start studying at Middlebury College, in Vermont, in the United States, in September. 'I will play tennis in university competitions. But it seems I am too old to turn professional. Normally girls start professional careers at about 16. But there have been cases where players turned pro after brilliant performances at university competitions. So everything is possible,' she says.
Kelvin, Hong Kong's top under-18 player last year who also hopes to study abroad, is training hard with the Hong Kong team. 'I hope very soon I'll be good enough to play for Hong Kong in major tournaments, such as the Davis Cup,' he says.