>> Saturday, December 19, 2009
Four Chinese WTA players will now be freed from being managed by the state controlled China Tennis Association (CTA). Li Na (world #15), Yan Zi (world #310), Peng Shuai (world #46), and Zheng Jie (world #35) will now be fully responsible in managing their careers and will not be paying 65% of their winnings to the CTA. Instead, they will just be required to pay eight percent of their earnings to the state system.
Due to this added freedom, the above mentioned players are directly going to handle their training and select the tournaments they would be participating in. There's a downside too – these players will not be able to rely on the state system in the case that their revenues dropped due to a slide in the rankings or any injuries.
Zheng, the first Chinese player to reach a grand slam semifinal in Wimbledon 2008 is well aware of what she's getting into. "I am one of the first to try this and in the first year, I crossed the river feeling the stones," Zheng told China Weekly magazine. "My obligation is to try my best to get good results. As to whether I am suitable for self-management, I am not sure what is the standard we judge by, ranking or prize money?"
But, she's excited with her new-found freedom. "In the past when I was young I was only told by the coach and leaders what to do. Now I am grown up, I choose my own tournaments. Now I think more about wanting to play well. I am playing for myself." Others are not as happy for her. CTA chief Sun Jinfang referred to Zheng as one of the "less talented and more hardworking" players, and indicated that she would be better off inside the national system.
My take – I salute the Chinese players for pushing for these changes. I know it has been going on for some time. (I think it's very similar to the situation Natalia Zvereva was in the late 80s when she was competing under the now defunct Soviet Union.) It's inevitable that not all of the four Chinese players will be in the advantage due to this but as a tennis fan; I believe that players should only play because they love the game, and not because they have to. The Chinese WTA players have improved so much in the past decade and their achievements have done a great deal to enhance tennis in Asia. I hope that pretty soon, one of them will be able to reach the top 10. This newfound freedom could be a motivating factor for them to reach this next milestone.