Sam Pearson has spent the last eight years working in the Chinese sports industry, most recently in the role of Senior Manager, Marketing Solutions Asia Pacific for the WTA, after previous stints with Ruder Finn and OCEANS Sports Marketing . He returns home to Wellington, New Zealand, to take up a position as Regional Sales & Marketing Manager for the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015. Shortly before leaving China, Pearson spoke to China Sports Insider about the current state of the sports industry, as well as the changes he’s witnessed, the future of men’s and women’s tennis in China – and being linked to a tennis star in China’s gossip pages.
The growth in women’s tennis has been one of the great China stories – in sport or elsewhere – in recent years. Li Na was the obvious catalyst, and in particular her 2011 French Open win, but much of the credit has to go to the WTA’s CEO, Stacey Allaster. This excellent profile by a former colleague of mine tells you everything you need to know about Allaster, who got the top job in women’s tennis in 2009.
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.
Things kicked off last week with a fun game between Li Na and Novak Djokovic that was more entertainment than tennis. Below is my Sports Talk take. Li Na continues to lead the Chinese women on the world stage. If only the men could catch up… Continue reading Li Na crushes Djokovic in China Open opener
Zhang Shuai has become just the fifth Chinese player to win a WTA singles title. Li Na has eight titles, Zheng Jie has four, Yan Zi and Sun Tiantian each have one, and now Zhang joins that elite group after a 7-6, 6-1 win over American Vania King in the final of the Guangzhou Open. Interestingly, Peng Shuai has never won a WTA singles title despite having been as high as 14 in the world rankings.