|Li Na shares a laugh with her former coach, Carlos Rodriguez, during the 2018 National Youth Champions Camp at Beijing's 1123 Junior Tennis Academy on Tuesday. [China Daily]|
Chinese tennis legend Li Na has urged the nation's up-and-coming talent to make the most of the new support systems that they have at their disposal.
Li reunited with her former Argentine coach, Carlos Rodriguez, on Tuesday to show the juniors how it's done at a demonstration session in Beijing.
It was the first time she and Rodriguez teamed up since they parted ways in July 2014, two months before Asia's only Grand Slam singles champion retired.
The pair's appearance thrilled the dozens of junior players attending the 2018 National Youth Champions Camp, which concluded its six-day program on Wednesday at south Beijing's 1123 Junior Tennis Academy.
Recalling her late-career surge under Rodriguez's tutelage, Li encouraged the kids to make every practice and tournament count.
"Sooner than expected, you will find you have no youth to squander in your career and then you start to cherish every second on court before it's too late," said Li, who was forced to retire because of a chronic knee injury after winning her second major at the 2014 Australian Open.
"You guys are so lucky now with so many opportunities and abundant training resources at home, which I couldn't have imagined back in my junior career. I wish you all succeed later in your careers - just make the most out of the support now."
Rodriguez, who runs another tennis academy in east Beijing, imparted his wisdom to children and local coaches at the camp before watching Li hit with the youngsters.
In addition to honing their skills, young Chinese players should focus on their mental game, said Rodriguez, who also guided Belgium great Justine Henin to seven Grand Slam singles titles between 1995 and 2011.
Inspired by Li's success, tennis has enjoyed a boom in China since her first Grand Slam success at the 2011 French Open, underlined by the increasing number of events hosted by Chinese cities on the women's and men's professional circuits - including Li's-hometown Wuhan Open.
The ongoing China Open has provided an invaluable opportunity for Chinese youth to get a taste of the WTA and ATP tours and watch the world's best in action on the hardcourts of Beijing.
The participants at the camp visited the China Open on Monday to watch the first-round match between Chinese teenager Wu Yibing and world No 61 Malek Jaziri of Tunisia. Wu lost in straight sets on the Diamond Court.
The camp was organized by the Chinese Tennis Association with support from Nike to educate youngsters on a variety of subjects in the professional game, including skills, fitness, nutrition, video analysis and etiquette.
(Source: China Daily)