It has been six years since China’s Li Na won the Australian Open. Her win came against the odds in a time when Serena Williams was dominating the women’s game, helpfully backed up by Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova. Since Williams’ last win at a grand slam event at Melbourne Park in 2017 there have been 11 major finals won by nine different women. Only Simona Halep (2018 French Open and last year’s Wimbledon) and Naomi Osaka (2018 US Open and in Melbourne last year) have won more than once. In the same period all of the men’s singles slams have been won by three players: Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The latter two have split the last seven slams between them. The last player to win a major outside of them was Stan Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open. In spite of it being a very open era for women’s singles, China’s hopes of another winner to follow hall of famer Li into the record books continue to go unfulfilled. Some thought it might be world number 29 Wang Qiang’s year after the 28-year-old stunned Williams in the biggest win of her career. Wang’s run ended in her next match against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur – the first Arab player to reach a slam quarter-final. Last year Wang, China’s top-ranked player, knocked world number one Ash Barty out of the US Open fourth round on her way to a first quarter-final. Her career has kicked on in the past 12 months but still it might not be enough to go to the very top. Of the players behind her in the rankings, none have gone further than the quarters with the exception of Peng Shuai, who reached the last four of the US Open the same year that Li won the lot in Australia. Zheng Jie is the only other Chinese player to reach a slam semi – at Wimbledon in 2008 and Melbourne in 2010 – but that was before Li went all the way. Li became the first Asian slam winner when she won the French Open in 2011, barging the door down through which no other Chinese players have followed. There have been shoots of success in the junior game. Wu Yibing, now 20, was the boys’ world number one and won the 2017 US Open juniors, while 18-year-old Wang Xinyu has won two girls’ junior doubles titles (Wimbledon and Melbourne in 2018). Wang Xiyu, who won the girls’ singles at the 2018 US Open, was her partner in the Wimbledon win. Players of Chinese descent, who would also inspire Chinese youth in the way Osaka has done for Japan, are on the way up, too. American qualifier Ann Li, 19, made it to a career best second round at this year’s Australian Open. She finished runner-up to fellow Chinese-American Claire Liu at the Wimbledon girls’ final in 2017. Spicy Sichuan + superstition = semi-final @wqiang92 is the first Chinese woman into a #WuhanOpen SF #WTA pic.twitter.com/vrw1AcFYwv — Wuhan Open (@wuhanopentennis) September 27, 2018 That success has not translated into the seniors – at least not in singles. China’s women are among the elite in doubles. Last year Zheng Shuai won the women’s doubles in Melbourne with Australia’s Samantha Stosur. There are no Chinese men ranked in the ATP’s top 100 players, Zhang Zhizhen is the highest at 137, but there are plenty of women inside the top 100. That’s still some way off former world number two Li, the benchmark of the Chinese game. Is it just a matter of time or is something else missing? It was in 2003 that the Australian Open rebranded itself “the grand slam of the Asia-Pacific” and it is fitting that it is the only slam to have been twice won by Asian players – Li in 2014 and then Japan’s Naomi Osaka last year. The event has continually set records for viewers and attendance year on year, largely driven by a growing cabal of Chinese fans, while Chinese sponsorship revenue has also swollen. “We’ve made no secret that China and the region are a major priority for the Australian Open, and that we take our role as the grand slam of Asia-Pacific seriously,” Tennis Australia’s chief revenue officer Richard Heaselgrave said after a record five-year sponsorship deal with Chinese baijiu producer Luzhou Laojiao in 2018. Back in 2008, Li advocated for the Australian Open to be moved from Melbourne to Shanghai. While she said it was because of the climate and because it was a shorter flight from her hometown of Wuhan, she had a point. China has big tennis events but there are only four slams, and the possibility of rotating Melbourne with Chinese and Japanese host cities has been raised in the past. A China slam would only drive the growth of the game and there is the money to make it happen. The WTA Finals in Shenzhen last year had the biggest prize pot in tennis, men’s or women’s. The ongoing Wuhan coronavirus might not be the time to raise it, but Melbourne has been a victim of the forest fires while Japan has dealt with tsunamis during last year’s Rugby World Cup and is still recovering from the Fukushima reactor event as it heads to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The tennis world might be waiting on its next Chinese slam winner but is a China slam first?