May 18, 2016
You know how we enjoy that tingle of anticipation in Europe just before Roland Garros and Wimbledon? It’s the same in New York a few weeks later, or indeed Melbourne when the year is still young.
There’s nothing like a Grand Slam tournament for getting the juices flowing. We’re lucky, aren’t we? So why shouldn’t Asia be allowed that same joyful sense of excitement?
It’s not like players from the Far East haven’t done enough in recent years to put Japan and China very firmly on the tennis map.
China’s Li Na charmed the world with her quirky humour and courageous tennis. And how we all cheered when Grand Slam glory came her way, first in Paris, France in 2011, and then in Melbourne in 2014.
She must have done more for East-West relations than any other sports star alive, and she is sorely missed since she retired from the tour.
Thankfully we have Kei Nishikori to remind us how much Eastern promise remains – and how Japan can contribute as much to world tennis as China.
Nishikori’s recent epic against Novak Djokovic in the Rome semi-final was a sheer delight. Kei took Novak apart in the first set to win it 6-2. Djokovic hit back 6-4 in the second to level the match.
And the decider could have gone either way, as Nishikori led 3-1 in the tie-break before finally losing the third 6-7 (5-7). Poor Djokovic didn’t have much left in the tank to face Murray in the final, though.
Nishikori looked well worth his world number six ranking, and will surely climb back to his career-high four – or indeed higher still – in the not-too-distant future.
It would be a surprise if he doesn’t taste Grand Slam glory some time soon, after he came so close by reaching the US Open final in 2014.
In April 2016, Nishikori was a familiar finalist in Barcelona, losing only to the resurgent Rafael Nadal, 4-6, 5-7. Another sparkling occasion, another reason to reflect upon what the Far East is giving us on a regular basis.
So why don’t we give something back? It’s been talked about before. Put a Grand Slam in Asia in October. It would work. We currently have the tournaments collectively known as the “Asian Swing” in the calendar anyway.
Should we have to choose between Japan and China for the fifth Slam? Not necessarily. There is a case for alternating the venue each year, so that China and Japan take turns to host the Asian Slam.
If we want tennis to be truly global, we should afford equal status to different parts of the world, particularly one that has given us such joy and such quality players in recent times.
Time to start talking again – and actually make the Asian Slam happen this time?
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