Federer backs Chinese men to shine

11 October 2012 08:18

Roger Federer believes success for China's men can inspire a generation in the world's most populous nation, which last year produced Asia's first Grand Slam singles champion.

Li Na's 2011 French Open win catapulted her to superstar status in the country of 1.3 billion and Zheng Jie has reached Grand Slam semi-finals as the men languished.

But at last week's Beijing Open Zhang Ze, ranked 154, shocked Frenchman Richard Gasquet to become the first Chinese man ever to beat a top 20 player.

Swiss 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer is not surprised the Chinese men, with Zhang and Wu Di (179) both now in the top 200, are making progress.

"I always thought they were playing pretty good tennis. I'm not surprised to see some of them making their move, getting some decent wins now. That can inspire an entire generation. So it's good to see," he said.

"I have the feeling that once the Chinese male players break through, there could be quite a few of them."

Federer, the top seed at the ongoing Shanghai Masters, said he did not know the ins and outs of the Chinese set-up but believed it was geared towards success.

"I'm obviously not quite aware of how the whole practice, how they do it, how the whole coaching staff is organised here. I'm sure it's very professional," he said.

"I'm sure they're hard-working because that's what you have to be in this day and age to make it on the pro Tour. Hopefully the next few months or years I'll play some of them. It would be nice. Something I'm looking forward to."

Victory for Zhang over Gasquet meant the 22-year-old became the first men's player from China to reach the quarter-final of an ATP event since Pan Bing made the semi-finals in Seoul in 1995.

The six foot two inch (188 cm) right-hander from Nanjing has made a rapid rise up the rankings this year and is the highest ranked men's player in Chinese tennis history. Pan's best was 176.

Both Zhang and 21-year-old Wu were first-round losers in Shanghai, which is headlined by Federer, Novak Djokovic and defending champion Andy Murray.

Source: AFP