The glut of “China isn’t at the World Cup, but…” articles has slowed (there is only so much to say, after all), though these pictures of President Xi Jinping are doing the rounds (h/t @niubi), unthinkable to depict the President in cartoon form just a few years ago.
The Chinese are getting up in their millions to watch the World Cup, and as expected Brazilian Neymar is becoming one of the main stories (this piece on Neymar’s China’s strategy is worth another look). But other things are happening too. Here’s a selection of interesting stories from the past few days (the first two of which feature some special China Sports Insider insight!).
Teams considered to be the best in the world by the Laureus Academy over the past decade have included FC Barcelona, the European Ryder Cup team and China’s Olympic squad.
But you would be hard pushed to find a more dominant team in world sport right now than the women’s doubles partnership of China’s Peng Shuai and Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei. In winning the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last weekend, the pair moved to 11-0 in finals. I’ve searched high and low to find some comparable dominance – in tennis and elsewhere – and I’m still looking.
…not Li Na, who today was officially confirmed as the number 2 player in the world, but Peng Shuai, who has just risen to the top of the rankings – in doubles.
Li Na has just made it though to her first ever US Open semifinal, with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 victory over the 24th seed Ekatarina Makarova from Russia. It also means a Chinese woman has reached at least the semifinals in all four Grand Slam tournaments (after Li and Zheng Jie in Australia, Li at Roland Garros, and Zheng at Wimbledon). The result should finally consign last week’s drugs “scandal” to history.
But now the real fun begins.
There have been many column inches devoted to Li Na’s temper over the past few weeks, both in the Chinese and foreign press. Prize to the most bizarre line goes to this LA Times piece which contains this gem:
In sports where performance calls for swift reactions — like tennis and soccer — China’s teams have typically struggled.
Whaaaaaat? Er, table tennis anyone? Soccer occasionally calls for quick reactions (as does almost any sport), but to suggest that China is bad at soccer because their players cannot repeat and learn a move again and again is just, well, bizarre.
The big news from the tennis world this weekend was not, of course, Andy Murray becoming Britain’s first winner of the men’s Wimbledon title for 77 years, but China’s Peng Shuai teaming up with Hsieh Su-wei from Taiwan to win the women’s doubles title. Taiwanese media pointed out that President Ma Ying-jeou, Vice President Wu Den-yih, Premier Jiang Yi-huah and Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling all sent Hsieh congratulatory telegrams (telegrams?? in 2013??).
After yesterday’s piece predicting glory for Chinese finest tennis player, I thought a follow up might be in order. Li Na battled from a set down to force a decider against the 4th seed Agneiszka Radwanska and saved seven match points in total, but finally succumbed 6-7, 6-4, 2-6 in what the Guardian called one of the most engaging matches of the tournament so far. So she won’t be winning Wimbledon any time soon, if ever.
Sabine Lisicki, Petra Kvitova, Agneiszka Radwanska, Marion Bartoli, Sloane Stephens, Kaia Kanepi, Kirsten Flipkens.
Those are the names that stand between Li Na and this year’s Wimbledon title and none of them should cause her to quake in her Nikes. Following Lisicki’s stunning defeat of overwhelming favorite Serena Williams on Monday, the tournament is as open at this stage as it has been in years.