Li Na ‘like a god’ but China will find their next champion soon, says Agnieszka Radwanska ahead of Hong Kong Tennis Open
After taking to the skies in a helicopter ride over the city, the 28-year-old outlines plans to get the most out of her last tournament of the year
Fresh off a helicopter ride over Hong Kong, Polish world number 11 Agnieszka Radwanska said she is confident China’s hunt for the next Li Na will bear fruit sooner rather than later.
With two China Open wins to her name – including the 2016 event – the 28-year-old is well placed to comment on the state of the game on the mainland and she feels the country’s next tennis hero is just around the corner.
“I know that [Li] was like a god and obviously a great legend and a great player, I played against her so many times,” Radwanska said.
“In China, they are doing everything to have a lot of good players and I think they are putting a lot of effort into the sport, so I think we are going to see a lot of good Chinese players in the future.
“There are more Chinese players on tour. I remember 10 years ago when I was starting myself on the tour and there were not many of them.
Watch: Agnieszka Radwanska takes to the skies of Hong Kong
“You see a lot of academies and a lot of huge facilities for tennis. I think there will be huge improvement.”
Much has been said about China’s failure to find their next champion, with Li saying herself that she is surprised no one has stepped in to fill the void.
Radwanska highlighted 26th-ranked Zhang Shuai, whom she beat 7-5, 7-5 in Beijing on Tuesday, as one player that could take the next step and challenge for a grand slam.
“There are a lot of Chinese players now and I actually played last week against Zhang. I think she’s one of the best Chinese players with really big potential,” Radwanska said.
Speaking at the Peninsula hotel after her jaunt through the city skies, Radwanska is itching to take to the court in her first appearance at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.
“It was great fun, you can really see everything from the air,” she said. “It is always very entertaining to play a tournament for the first time and I heard from the girls it’s a great tournament. I’m very happy to be here.
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“There are a lot of top players in the draw so it’s not going to be easy and I think I am just going to enjoy my last week on the tour this year.”
Despite falling in the round of 16 in last week’s China Open, Radwanska boasts an impressive record on the mainland, more than can be said for many of the top players.
“I always feel good here in Asia and in China, playing my best tennis and winning a lot of tournaments,” she said. “I don’t know the secret to that, but when I go on to the centre court I really feel good.
“The crowd is great, really loud and you can really hear them. They really love tennis here so you can really see that.”
As for why many of her contemporaries struggle: “The conditions might be very tough, sometimes it is hard to breathe.
“In Wuhan [two weeks ago] it was extremely hot and humid and I was struggling myself. Every week we have different conditions so it’s not easy.”