Swiss tennis great Roger Federer said yesterday it would be “amazing” to have a Chinese men’s player in the world’s top 50, but that all countries were struggling to unearth new contenders.
His comments came after world number two Novak Djokovic said last week it would be at least five years before Asia can produce a top-ranking men’s player, with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, ranked 18th, the only one currently in the top 40.
Federer, teaming up with Zhang Ze, ranked 271, in the doubles at the Shanghai Masters, said there was a worldwide dearth of teenagers in the top 300.
“So for that matter, it’s going to take teenagers longer to make a breakthrough, make it into the top 100, top 50, top 10, so forth,” said the Swiss after he and Zhang romped to a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 win against Kevin Anderson and Dmitry Tursunov.
“Overall for the game, I think it would be fun to have young, up-and-coming stars around,” Federer added.
“With China, they’re trying very hard. They’re very disciplined. Clearly it would be amazing for this kind of a huge tournament and the country to have a rising star within the top 50.”
Federer and Zhang – dressed in matching red shorts and off-white tops – put on a show for the partisan crowd under the roof in rain-hit Shanghai, with Zhang putting away an overhead to wrap up the match in just 46 minutes.
The Swiss world number seven said he hoped that Zhang, 23, could be the player to make it to the big time as the men look to emulate the success of China’s women, led by former French Open champion Li Na.
Zhang said at least the sport was going in the right direction. “I think over the past two years, tennis in China began to improve slowly. Players like me and Wu Di [ranked 244] have improved in the rankings from 300, 400, to within 200,” he said.
“You can’t say this is too slow or too quick. I think that over the past several years there really are a lot of breakthroughs in China. I think I will try to be within the top 100.”