Li Na: Higher rankings, more tournaments good sign for growth of tennis in Asia

The increase in the number of professional tennis tournaments in Asia, as well as new highs in world rankings for Asian players in both the singles and doubles on the WTA tour can only do good for the growth of the sport in this part of the world, says two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na.

The Australia Open champion's career-high ranking of No. 2 makes her the first Asian player to hold that spot, while compatriot Peng Shuai and her Taiwanese partner Hsieh Su-wei also hit new highs by becoming No. 1.

"This is good for Asia tennis," Li told The Straits Times in a phone interview early Thursday morning from Indian Wells in the United States where she is top seed in the BNP Paribas Open.

The 32-year-old two time Major winner is top of the leaderboard in the road to earning a spot at the year-end WTA Championships in Singapore, which takes place at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from Oct 17-26.

She said: "It's very good to put tennis in Asia. It's the first time we're having it in Asia. I cannot wait for it. Before, I've always been in the Singapore airport, I've never been in the city. If I have a chance, I will look around right after the tournament."

Singapore is the first city in the Asia-Pacific to stage the 44-year-old tournament, which will host the year's top eight singles players and doubles teams.

The season finale will be expanded into a 10-day extravaganza, incorporating sideshows like Rising Star and Legends events as well as business forums and music showcases.

The WTA has been making an emphasis on growing tennis in Asia and particularly in China, where five tournaments including a new lower-tier event in Hong Kong will be held this year.

Li's home city of Wuhan will also from next year replace the Pan Pacific Open, which has been held in Tokyo for the last three decades. Beijing already holds the China Open, a Premier-level tournament.

"It's good for us, less travelling, but also good for the fans. They can see in person the highest level of tennis," said Li.

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