Win, or go home.
Just as soon as the spotlight turned to China and their tennis program, both Li Na and Zheng Jie lose in straight sets.
Granted, each did it differently. Li put up one hell of a fight against Serena Williams, taking the number one seed to the tie-break in both sets. Zheng, on the other hand, folded like a cheap lawn chair.
Win or go home? That seems to be what happened to the fervor that surrounded the two players from China after their exits. In all likelihood, no one outside of China will remember this Australian Open for the Chinese making it to the semifinal. It will likely be remembered either for Justine Henin’s comeback, or another Serena crown. If Chinese tennis continues to grow people still will not likely look at this run as what got them here.
Do not get me wrong. I do not think that their losses set back Chinese tennis. On the contrary, with Li poised to entered the top ten, it will likely only enhance it. But Chinese tennis will continue to grow by millimeters rather than meters.
A win by either Li or Zheng would have been Chinese tennis’s “Great Leap Forward.”
A finals appearance would have been a large step.
However, the loss, while still moving forward, is just a baby step.
Chinese tennis is making progress. Li, while defiant in her own country, has promise as someone fans can attach to. She demonstrated that she can battle with the best.
But until a Chinese tennis player breaks through to the finals and/or a Grand Slam title, the sport in the world’s most populous country will continue to be a novelty.
And, it will continue to be a novelty in sports media.
Win, or go home? For now, China will go home and, hopefully, continue to build on the steps made at the 2010 Australian Open.
Baby steps, mind you. But steps forward nonetheless.
But it is just amazing to me how quickly they are forgotten once they lost.