They're the most successful pairing in Chinese history, but dual grand slam champions Yan Zi and Zheng Jie will be playing only occasionally together this year in a bid to boost their singles careers. Yan and Zheng, the 2006 Australian Open and 2006 Wimbledon women's doubles champions, also won the women's doubles bronze medal at August's Olympic Games. While Zheng, who is expected to arrive in Hong Kong tomorrow for the JB Group Classic, continues to use Beijing as her base, Yan moved to Shenzhen earlier this month to work at the Mission Hills Tennis Academy with top South Korean coach Choi Hee-june. This followed four weeks of intense physical training at the University of Hong Kong in November. Yan left for Australia this week to play in the Brisbane International, starting tomorrow, before the year's first grand slam at Melbourne Park, starting on January 19. 'For any tennis player, singles is more important,' Yan said. 'Here the weather is better so [Mission Hills] will be my base for next few years. I want to get back into the top 50 and have some good results.' The two friends from Sichuan will play together at the Australian Open but have committed to only two other doubles events as they plan different schedules. Chinese players have now been granted greater freedom by their federation to choose their own travel itineraries, tournaments and coaches. 'It's a little bit scary,' Yan admitted. 'Before we never thought about flight tickets, booking hotels and all that. So we'll test it and see how it goes. It's different but it's more professional.' Yan, who has just one WTA singles title compared to 14 in doubles, hit a career-best ranking of number 40 in the world in May, but finished last year at a less impressive 126th. Coach Choi, who guided fellow South Korean Lee Hyung-taik to success on the ATP Tour, believes that Yan has the potential to break into the top 20 this year with a game that he likens to that of nine-time grand slam singles champion Monica Seles. 'She's a double-handed player on both sides so we compare her to Seles,' he said. 'Her strengths are that she's a hard worker, very fast on the court and very aggressive. As for any weakness, I haven't seen one yet.' At only 1.71 metres, Yan is dwarfed by the Williams sisters and giant Russians like Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina. But Choi, who's working on improving her second serve and forehand, said her speed made up for any lack of size. She also has a winning record over world number one Jelena Jankovic (2-0) and another Serbian, Ana Ivanovic (1-0), the reigning French Open champion. But Yan admits that to go full throttle into singles is a little daunting as she leaves her comfort zone and learns to reshape her game at Mission Hills. 'Singles is more difficult and the strategy is different to doubles,' Yan said. 'With the volleys, you need to go more in and out instead of always pushing forward to the net. The court seems so much bigger in singles.' When she's travelling away from Mission Hills, Yan will be working with German coach Martin Sinner, a former ATP Tour player who reached a career-high singles ranking of 42nd in the world in 1995. She said she was looking forward to the independence that came as part of a new phase of Chinese tennis but admitted that she missed the camaraderie of long-time partner Zheng. Their friendship has slowly changed since Zheng got married two years ago. 'We always used to stay together in the same room. We could talk about tennis and other things like clothes or whatever. Everything I could talk to Zheng Jie about and she'd give me advice,' she said. 'After her husband came, we had no chance to talk as much. It's a bit sad. But we still have a strong friendship and talk through text messages.' This month's Australian Open will give the two distant buddies a chance to catch up at one of their few tournaments together during the season.