Chinese Tennis legend and former Grand Slam champion Li Na is hoping that China can produce male players who can be role models for the nation. Becoming Asia’s first ever Grand Slam champion, Li retired from the sport in 2014, winning two Grand Slams before hanging her boots.
There are currently four Chinese women in the world's top 50 whereas the top ranked Chinese man is ranked outside the Top-200 at No.222. "I wish to see the men's side do well. That would be great," Li said.
"I think for the men's side, they need one player to grow up and show everyone 'I can make it' and give confidence for other young athletes." Speaking about rising star Wang Qiang, she said, "I think it's very good, now she's very close to the top 10, I'm looking forward to see that.
Also the WTA Finals are in Shenzhen for (the next) 10 years, that's a good chance for Chinese players." With Kim Clijsters making a return to professional tennis next year, could Li do the same? "One hundred percent, staying home," said Li.
"It's much easier, less pressure. At least at home you're doing something and nobody knows. But on the tennis court, if you smash your racquet, the whole world knows." Though she misses the competitive aspect in her life, she is not going to pressurize her kids to take up the sport.
"First you want to cultivate the interest in sports. When a child is sincerely interested in something, you don't even have to push them to do anything. If you're forcing them to do anything, the result will not be good," Li said.
"The truth is not everyone who plays tennis will make it to the very top of the pyramid. Playing sports, it's something that is a good platform to meet new friends, to get the good experiences of your life, to learn something in your life”.
"Playing sport is a process of challenging yourself to improve. You don't have to compare yourself to others."