19 Mar 2009

Chinese tennis players can now look after themselves

6:27 am on 19 March 2009

China's decision to free its top tennis players from the state system could provide a blueprint for other sports working in a rapidly changing society, according to a senior tennis official.

The Chinese system enjoyed its greatest triumph when China topped the medals table at last year's Olympics, but retaining tight control over its athletes is likely to become increasingly difficult as constraints are loosened in other areas of life.

The decision to allow Zheng Jie, Li Na, Yan Zi and Peng Shuai to keep 92 percent of their earnings and choose their own coaches was merely a reflection of the new realities, according to the deputy director of the Chinese Tennis Association.

Before the change, the four women kept only 35 percent of their winnings. In return, the CTA covered all their travel, coaching and equipment expenses.