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The Draw: 30 June
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Wimbledon, one of the most iconic brands in world sport, has arrived in China for the first time in a bid to boost junior tennis development in the country with the Road to Wimbledon China.
Spearheaded by former world No.2 and double Grand Slam champion Li Na, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), home of The Championships, Wimbledon and Rolex arrived in Nanjing yesterday with a mission to work with and inspire some of the best young talent in the country.
The Road to Wimbledon is a grassroots programme run by the AELTC for players aged 14 and under involving clubs, parks and schools, aimed at boosting the development of junior tennis. The programme was established in the UK in 2002 before expanding to India in 2014.
Today marks the launch of a pilot scheme by the AELTC, Rolex and the Chinese Tennis Association to support the development of Chinese tennis, with a week of events hosted at the Tennis Academy of China, Nanjing from 14 to 24 May. The Chinese Tennis Association has selected the top eight boys and girls from across the country to attend the eventand compete in the inaugural Road to Wimbledon China tournament, with the top two boys and girls from the tournament invited to attend the UK National Finals on the hallowed turf of Wimbledon in August 2016.
Road to Wimbledon China is also designed to give young Chinese players the opportunity to improve their game. Li Na, the first Asian Grand Slam singles champion, will lead the first Road to Wimbledon China programme, hosting a press conference, coaching clinic with the sixteen competitors and a coach education workshop, all taking place at the Tennis Academy of China in Nanjing today. The rest of the week will consist of a best-in-class junior tennis programme led by Wimbledon Head Coach Dan Bloxham and former Great Britain No.1 Jeremy Bates.
Former Australian Open and French Open winner Li said: “During my career, I was always proud to represent China and the growth of the sport in my country is something that I feel hugely passionate about. This week is going to be very special being involved in the first Road to Wimbledon China event. It is a huge honour to work with the AELTC and the Chinese Tennis Association to help the young Chinese boys and girls take their next steps on their own tennis journey. It’s a massive opportunity for tennis in China.”
Road to Wimbledon Tournament Director and former British Davis Cup Captain Paul Hutchins, added: “I’m very proud to see the growth of the Road to Wimbledon programme since its inception – first in India and now this ground-breaking pilot scheme in China. It’s fantastic to have a great champion in Li Na with us to launch the programme. This is a major step forward for the Road to Wimbledon and working with the Chinese Tennis Association is hugely exciting.”
Mr Lang Wei, Vice Chairman of the Chinese Tennis Association said: “We’re really lucky to have the passion, support and experience of Li Na, the AELTC and Tournament Director Paul Hutchins in launching this ground-breaking scheme in China. We hope that the Road to Wimbledon China will be a great platform for Chinese tennis.”
Arnaud Boetsch, Communication and Image Director at Rolex said: “The Road to Wimbledon is an institution in the UK, is gathering pace in India and we feel incredibly privileged to be a supporter of its first steps in China. Through our 38-year partnership with The Championships, Wimbledon as Official Timekeeper, at Rolex we understand the importance of investing in the future of tennis – not just in the UK but also abroad. This is why we are proud to be a part of launching the pilot scheme of the Road to Wimbledon China.”