The China Open tennis has long been in the books: the 10th anniversary of the tournament saw a dream men’s final between the top two seeds, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, in which Djokovic won, but Nadal regained the world number 1 ranking. But as the best male players in the world face off in London at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals, it has emerged that this dream final came within a whisker of not happening at all. The reason? The pollution was so bad that Rafa Nadal almost refused to walk out on court.
It should have been a triumphant weekend of sports for Beijing: China’s female golfing star, Feng Shanshan, took the inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic by a single shot thanks to an eagle on the very last hole, the dream men’s final in the China Open tennis tournament saw no. 1 seed Novak Djokovic beat no. 2 seed Rafael Nadal, while on the women’s side Serena Williams won the tenth title of what is arguably the best year of her career.
But instead, everyone was talking about the weather.
The star-studded line-up that is the China Open (Djokovic, Nadal, Serena, Sharapova et al) is underway, with an intriguing match on Monday between China’s breakout star of recent weeks Zhang Shuai, who won the Guangzhou Open and reached the final of the Yinzhou Bank International Women’s Tennis Open in Ningbo last week, and Peng Shuai, a member of the old guard [UPDATE: Zhang Shuai won 6-3, 6-3]. Elsewhere, 2010 champion Caroline Wozniacki raised a few smiles with her discussion about her favorite opponent, Bye.
While it will likely have none of the animosity of that famous showdown between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (which, incidentally, was 40 years ago this week), Beijing will stage its own Battle of the Sexes on Friday September 27 when women’s world no. 5 Li Na will play men’s world no. 1 Novak Djokovic at the National Tennis Center in northern Beijing to mark the 10th anniversary of the China Open.