• Andrew Collins

The Growing Popularity of Tennis in China

Updated: Jun 4, 2019

There has never been a single player in tennis as influential as Li Na. She inspired a nation of people to take an interest in tennis, with millions picking up a racket. Beyond that, her separation from the state-controlled training regime, as well as her unique personality is what makes her resonate so strongly with the younger generation in China.

The WTA’s chief executive, Stacey Allaster previously said that ‘Li Na was without doubt the most important player of this decade’. Forget that. She’s the most significant player in the history of the sport. There was a record 134 million people watching the 2011 French Open Final in China. To put that into perspective, Super Bowl 49 became the most watched broadcast in U.S. TV history with 114.4 million viewers.

Despite many questioning the long term effect of Li Na, especially since her retirement, tennis in China is in a very healthy situation. The WTA has 7 events in China this year alone, one of the busiest regions on the schedule. The China Open that recently finished is also one of only four premier mandatory events, where the top stars’ participation is compulsory.

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