Glit­ter­ing cast

Star-stud­ded China Open will serve up a hol­i­day feast in Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

As some of the big­gest names in ten­nis tune up for next week’s China Open in Bei­jing, lo­cal fans are still without a ma­jor homegrown star to fill the void left by Asia’s first Grand Slam win­ner, Li Na, who re­tired in 2014.

How­ever, Span­ish coach Ed­uardo Ni­co­las is cur­rently help­ing China try to break the West’s stran­gle­hold on the game, and is con­fi­dent the fans won’t have to wait much longer.

Ni­co­las, the men­tor of Slo­vakian for­mer world No 5 Daniela Han­tu­chova, was hired by the 1123 Ju­nior Ten­nis Academy in Bei­jing this sum­mer, with the school’s founder, Yi Ping, ex­pect­ing his stu­dents to reap ma­jor ben­e­fits from their new coach’s tute­lage.

“Ed­uardo’s know-how in the top ech­e­lon of pro ten­nis is go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence,” said Yi, who named the academy after the date it opened on Nov 23, 2010.

“I can tell from the de­tails in his train­ing ses­sions that ev­ery­thing he re­quires from the girls re­flects ex­actly the de­mands of pro ten­nis.”

A for­mer pro­fes­sional, mainly on the dou­bles cir­cuit, Ni­co­las said his phi­los­o­phy of coach­ing for over a decade on the WTA and ATP tours fo­cuses on tech­nique and work ethic — two qual­i­ties he is em­pha­siz­ing at 1123.

“As a Span­ish coach, we like to work hard and fo­cus very much on foot­work,” said Ni­co­las, who also worked with for­mer world No 5 Spa­niard Tommy Ro­bredo.

“It’s im­por­tant to take up the right po­si­tions on clay to work for the points, and this is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for Chi­nese play­ers be­cause, like the Span­ish play­ers, they are not big and pow­er­ful.”

Un­der Ni­co­las’ guid­ance, 1123’s 16-year-old prospect Wang Xiyu reached the girls’ dou­bles fi­nal at the US Open this year with Croa­t­ian part­ner Lea Boskovic.

“Chi­nese ten­nis is ma­tur­ing a lot. I think in the next cou­ple of years there will be a lot of play­ers,” said Ni­co­las.

“You have a lot of fa­cil­i­ties, gov­ern­ment sup­port and tour­na­ments at the mo­ment. Th­ese things help to grow the game.

“It’s a chal­lenge for me to help build play­ers here. They have all the in­gre­di­ents to be good pros and I would like to share my ex­pe­ri­ence on how we work in Spain to give them the tools to make them stronger and more com­pet­i­tive.”

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