China's Xu Shilin becomes world's No 1 junior tennis player

Updated: 2014-10-29 14:58


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China's Xu Shilin becomes world's No 1 junior tennis player

Xu during 2014 Australian Open Junior tournament. [Provided for] 

Teen tennis star 'Coco' Xu Shi Lin made Chinese tennis history on Tuesday when she officially moved atop the International Tennis Federation (ITF) world junior tennis rankings for girls' ages 18-and-under, the first Chinese player to have an ITF top junior world ranking.

The 16-year-old Xu catapulted to the top of the world junior rankings from her number three spot by capturing the singles and doubles titles at last week's Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan. Xu, who hits two-handed forehand and backhand ground strokes, dropped only one set while dominating six opponents to win one of the world's most prestigious junior singles titles.

"I am very proud to become the first Chinese player to earn the number one world junior ranking," said Xu, who has been Asia's top-ranked junior player during the past two years. "The 2014 season is not over yet, so I need to stay focused and continue to play like I did in Japan."

In Osaka, Xu routed promising Chinese teammate Zheng Wushuang, 6-1, 6-0, in the singles semifinals and then dispatched Australia's Kim Birrell on Sunday in the championship final, 7-5, 6-3. Xu set up her Japan sweep on Saturday by teaming with Australia's Sarah Tomic to defeat five straight opponents to capture the doubles title.

"Osaka was a really incredible week as I played my style of tennis, keeping the points short and always being aggressive," said Xu, who lives and trains in Shenzhen with her father and coach Xu Yang. "Recently I've been focusing on improving my physical strength and endurance and it made a difference as I felt more energy during the last couple of days."

Xu, the gold medal winner in singles at the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games in August, has three more tournaments to close out the 2014 tennis season. Xu will attempt to defend her Asian titles in singles and doubles in Korea during November 10-16, and then finish the season during the first two weeks of December playing two world-class events – Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl -- in Florida, USA.

"Shilin's tennis performance since July at Wimbledon has been incredible," said Frank Sha, Xu's business agent at ZOU Marketing, which started to work with the tennis prodigy since she was 12 years old. "Shilin reached the Wimbledon junior singles quarterfinals and it gave her a lot of confidence, which led to her winning Olympic gold in Nanjing during August.

"China's never had a season-ending top-ranked world champion in tennis in juniors or the professional level so it'll be exciting to see what Shilin can accomplish during this final stage of the 2014 season," added Sha.

As a junior player, Xu was limited to playing 12 professional tournaments in 2014 but has still managed to climb to number 414 in the latest WTA world rankings, one of the highest rankings for a junior player.

"I am looking forward to playing more WTA events next year but for now, I just want to finish 2014 with giving my best effort in Korea and Florida," said Xu.

Returning to Florida will be familiar playing conditions for Xu, who lived in the US state with her family while training full-time at various tennis academies during ages 8 to 13, before returning to China in 2012. Remaining outside of the state-supported sports training system, Xu's father Xu Yang has been her full-time coach since putting a racquet in her hand at age three.

"If everything goes well, the number one ranking and 2014 world junior championship title will be decided in Florida," said father and coach Xu Yang. "As long as Shilin plays her style of tennis – being aggressive and attacking from all over the court – she can accomplish anything."

Brands interested in the success of Chinese tennis are taking notice of Xu's growing achievements. Xu currently has multi-year sponsorship deals with global sportswear giant Adidas, Chinese smart phone maker Vivo, and French tennis racquet Technifibre.

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