Veterans, hired guns eye tennis gold

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> China's Li Na, veterans Kimiko Date Krumm and Tamarine Tanasugarn, as well as a host of European-born, hired guns will lead the charge for Asian Games tennis go

Updated: November 11, 2010 09:15 IST
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Guangzhou :

China's Li Na, veterans Kimiko Date Krumm and Tamarine Tanasugarn, as well as a host of European-born, hired guns will lead the charge for Asian Games tennis gold.

However, Li, Asia's highest-ranked player, will not feature in the women's singles, opting instead to limit her input to the team event which starts on Saturday.

"I hope to give my younger compatriots more chances to compete in international games to prepare for the London Olympics," said Li, who reached a career-high ranking of number nine in August.

"For someone who has played at the Grand Slam and Olympics, the Asian Games seem less important. However, I will try my best as I am competing for my country on home soil."

Li's decision to skip the singles leaves the door open for Japanese veteran Date Krumm to win a second Games gold, 16 years after she triumphed in 1994 at Hiroshima.

The 40-year-old, the world 48, will take part in singles, doubles and the women's team event.

"In Hiroshima, I pressured myself into thinking that a gold medal was a must," Date Krumm told the Asahi Shimbun.

"When I actually won the gold, I felt more relieved than happy. But this time, I want to enjoy the Asian Games as much as I can."

Date Krumm could face Thai number one Tanasugarn in the final here, just weeks after they clashed in the Japan Open final.

With a combined age of 73, the pair were playing the oldest known final ever.

The Guangzhou event is Tamarine's fourth Asian Games after finishing runner-up at the 1998 and 2002 Asiad and being knocked out in the quarter-finals in 2006.

Sania Mirza, defeated in the recent Commonwealth Games final in New Delhi, won a gold and two silvers at the 2006 Games in Doha, and is hopeful of adding to that total away from the pressures of playing in India.

Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin will be amongst the favourites for the men's title despite being born in Russia.

The Kazakhs have plundered foreign talent in recent years with more and more players switching allegiance to boost their hopes of featuring at the Olympics.

The 'guns for hire' policy is paying dividends with the country securing a debut place in the elite Davis Cup World Group in 2011 having defeated Switzerland in the September play-offs.

"I don't have a problem with this as there is an agreement between our tennis federations to help each other out," said grizzled Russian Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain, Shamil Tarpischev.

"This has managed to help a lot of tennis players, as they have been able to get extra funding from the Kazakh federation, which helps them to develop. "There were problems in Russia, as we were unable to give them the financing they needed since we have so many good players."

Top seed is likely to be Taiwan's Lu Yen-Hsun with India's Somdev Devvarman also amongst the favourites.

The Games will be without India's Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, the 2006 gold medallists, who are skipping the China trip along with Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and his Indian partner Rohan Bopanna.

They are instead all set to play in the ATP season-ending championships in London which clash with the Asian Games.

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