Over the next decade the sporting world will shift on its axis, from the Western World to Asia. The likes of the Chinese Government have publicly stated their ambition to build a $850bn sporting empire by 2025, and one sport already reaping the rewards is tennis.
Home to nearly 4.5 billion of the world’s 7 billion population, Asia’s potential to become a tennis powerhouse is not, by any means, a bold call. Asia have dominated at all racquet sports besides tennis for decades. Now, Asia are planning their assault on the tennis scene.
Up & Coming Stars
Nowadays, there are five in the ATP top 100 and 11 in the WTA top 100. In the ITF Junior rankings, there are 10 boys from Asia in the top 100, while there are 17 girls in the top 100.
While Japan’s Kei Nishikori – No. 5 on ATP top 100 – is Asia’s biggest tennis star at the moment, the pack of young players following in the 27 year-old’s successful footsteps are plentiful across the both the men’s and women’s games.
One such player is Chung Hyeon, who at just 18, broke into the ATP top 100. Hyeon had a fantastic junior career, finishing runner-up at Junior Wimbledon in 2013 before turning pro in 2014. Now, the 20 year-old is building his game on tour and has stayed in the ATP top 100 since 2015.
Hot talents on among the junior boys ranks are Yibing Wu (China) – No. 2 in Top 100, Yu Hsiou (Taipei) – No. 9 in 100, Yuta Shimizu (Japan) – No. 11 in Top 100, Toru Horie (Japan) – 22nd in Top 100, Lingxi Zhao (China) – 24th in Top 100.
The junior girls leading the way for Asia are Xiyu Wang (China) – 12th in Top 100, Mai Hontama (Japan) – 15th in Top 100, Ayumi Minamoto (Japan) – 21st in Top 100, Yuki Naito (Japan) – 25th in Top 100.
Success Breeds Participation
In 2011, Li Na became the first ever Asian player to win a tennis Grand Slam when she lifted the French Open. She repeated her major success three years later at the 2014 Australian Open and reached a career-high ranking as the world’s No. 2 female player.
While Li has since retired, her success between 2011 and 2014 single-handedly drove tennis’ popularity through the roof in her native China and throughout Asia.
At the time of her Grand Slam victories, Li was rivalling Maria Sharapova for endorsement deals, putting pen to paper on huge sponsorship deals and cementing tennis’ status as the “it” sport in Asia. The to-be Hall of Fame player has worked wonders for the future of tennis in Asia.
According to research conducted from the ATP’s Shanghai Rolex Masters last October, tennis is the seventh most popular participation sport in Asia. However, it’s the No. 1 “aspiration sport.” – i.e. the sport people want to play.
Fifth Major Debate (It’s not Indian Wells)
Last year, Asia hosted eight ATP tournaments, three of them were ATP World Tour 500 events and one — Shanghai — was a Masters event.
On the WTA side, Singapore (WTA Finals) and Zhuhai (WTA Elite Trophy) hosted the two year-ending championships, and those are just two of the 17 tournaments that were held in Asia. Two of these events were Premier (Dubai and Tokyo), two were Premier 5 (Doha and Wuhan) and one was a Premier Mandatory (China Open).
In addition to this, the facilities built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics are certified “Grand Slam” quality, and the economy as explained earlier is booming and eager to stump up the cash they need to create sporting success within the country.
We’re not saying this is going to happen, but in theory it could be a very lucrative step for the ATP and WTA to take. Watch this space.
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