China Open needs homegrown stars

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Alexander Zverev of Germany in action against Andrey Rublev of Russia during men's singles quarterfinals of China Open in Beijing on Oct 6, 2017.

While the China Open is finally getting the international recognition it deserves, the co-tournament director believes it also needs successful Chinese players to make an impact.

Thomas Ross, a veteran tennis promoter in the United States, was brought in this year to help boost the overseas profile of China's biggest tournament.

The competition attracted almost all the top women and many of the best men's players.

World No 1 Rafael Nadal lifted the men's title on Sunday and France's unseeded Caroline Garcia stunned new women's No 1 Simona Halep in their final.

Ross, who has represented top stars including Michael Chang and Lleyton Hewitt, said he had witnessed the China Open grow from humble beginnings.

"I had been to this tournament in the early days, over 10 years ago, when it was just a start-up," he said.

"In that small gym over a decade ago it would have been hard to envision it becoming as big as it has here at this venue."

The China Open has been designate a "premier mandatory" event on the women's WTA Tour, putting it on a par with the respected and well-established tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

Ross hopes the men's event will now scale the next rung on the ATP Tour.

It is currently an ATP 500 event, on a par with a concurrent Tokyo tournament but below this week's Shanghai Masters.

"The recognition is coming for this event, the biggest combined WTA/ATP event in Asia, in the capital of China. It's only a matter of time," said Ross.

But he conceded that showcasing a big-name Chinese player would be "incredibly important" for the tournament.

China has only produced one Grand Slam winner, the now-retired Li Na, and while there are three Chinese women in the world's top 50, the men are lagging.

"Chinese men's tennis is not as successful a story, at least not yet," said Ross, adding how Chinese American Chang, who won the French Open at 17, was among those "baffled" by the country's dearth of competitive men.

But Ross is optimistic, citing the emergence of Wu Yibing, the 17-year-old who won the junior title at last month's US Open.

Li said earlier this month she was disappointed that she remains China's biggest tennis star, three years after her retirement.

"Actually, I don't like that people always remember me," she told journalists at the recent Wuhan Open.

"When I decided to retire, I was thinking new Chinese winners would come along the next day."

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