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