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China's Li helps hosts clinch Asian Games title

China's Li helps hosts clinch Asian Games title

Led by Grand Slam semifinalist Li Na, China swept its singles matches against Taiwan to clinch the team title at the Asian Games.
Taiwan won the men's title despite the withdrawal of Wimbledon quarterfinalist Lu Yen-hsun, taking the deciding doubles rubber against Uzbekistan, which was led by 40th-ranked Denis Istomin.
No. 11-ranked Li overpowered Chan 6-1, 6-1 at the Aoti Tennis Center on Tuesday, shortly after teammate Peng Shuai overcame Chang Kai-chen in straight sets. Taiwan won the dead rubber in doubles, with Chuang Chia-jung and Hsieh Su-wei beating Zhang Shuai and Yan Zi in two sets.
Chan, twice a Grand Slam doubles finalist with Chuang but only 110th in the world in singles, acknowledged China's superiority, even in the absence of its No. 2 player, Zheng Jie, to injury.
"There is still a gap between us. Li Na is eight years older than I am. There is a lot I can work on," the 21-year-old said.
Li, who reached the Australian Open semifinals earlier this year, said she'd never played Chan before and had to rely on scouting reports from younger teammates.
Taiwan found success in singles women's tennis in the early 1990s, when Wang Shi-ting reached a career high ranking of No. 26 in 1993. But mainland China has outshined the self-ruled island since then with the success of Li and Zheng.
Zheng also reached the Australian semis this year and was a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2008. She has also won two Grand Slam doubles titles with Yan.
The team final on Tuesday was a form of tennis diplomacy. While they share similar Mandarin-speaking cultural backgrounds, mainland China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949 when the communists forced the ruling Nationalists into exile in Taiwan. The mainland government continues to claim Taiwan as part of its territory, but many Taiwanese argue that their separate identity makes them effectively a different country.
Politics, however, hasn't prevented their female tennis players from bonding with each other off-the-court.
"We have pretty good relationships. We talk to each other, ask each other how we are doing. We've known each other for a long time from playing on the WTA Tour," said Chan, who affectionately refers to Li as "Na jie," or "big sister Na."
Chan added she appreciated the fact that mainland audiences in Guangzhou applauded for her even though they wanted Li to win.
Doubles pairings between the two sides are also now common. Peng won three doubles titles on the WTA Tour last year with Hsieh.
ATP Tour rising star Istomin, who reached his first tour-level final in New Haven, Connecticut, in August, wasn't too disappointed about failing to deliver Uzbekistan's first gold in Guangzhou. The 24-year-old won his singles match in straight sets but lost in the doubles.
"We played a couple of good matches to get here. Of course gold is better, but silver is good," Istomin said. "They (The Taiwanese) were very good at playing a volley game. They had some very good chances and we didn't grab ours."
Singles action gets under way in Guangzhou on Wednesday.
With Li skipping the singles draw and Zheng absent, amazingly, the top seed is 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm. The Japanese veteran, who returned to the WTA Tour in 2008 after a 12-year break, is seeking her second Asian Games titles 16 years after clinching gold at the 1994 games on home soil in Hiroshima.
Seeded second is Thai veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, with Indian star Sania Mirza also in her half of the draw.
On the men's side, Istomin is the top seed after Lu's pullout. India's Somdev Devvarman is the top player in the bottom half. Thailand's Danai Udomchoke is the defending champion, although his ranking of 464 only gives him a ninth seeding.


Updated : 2021-10-21 14:20 GMT+08:00