Patrick McEnroe on China’s new star, Peng Shuai, and the Tour’s return to China


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NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 22: Former professional tennis player Patrick McEnroe in action during an exhibition match after the Louis Armstrong Stadium Dedication Ceremony at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

China’s Zheng Qinwen makes a run at the French Open — beating Simona Halep and Alize Cornet, then becoming the first player in more than a month to take a set off Iga Swiatek. (2:20) Zheng has been getting lots of attention in China, with people posting about her online and bringing tennis back into the spotlight (6:00). Elsewhere, there’s a new youth football league in China — but will it make a difference (6:55)? China’s goalkeeping coach says the men’s national team has improved by 33% in recent months. That’s, er, debatable (8:00). How does the formation of a youth league in China compare to development in other countries and why has it taken so long (9:36)?

Tennis great Patrick McEnroe joins the show from New York, after returning from Roland Garros (11:40). He gives his thoughts on Zheng’s run to the last 16 in Paris (12:25). Is it too early to call her the next Li Na (13:42)? Moving outside of China, coupled with her personality, can help her prepare for the big time (15:05).

Are players and coaches talking about Chinese tennis today? How much are the next crop of youngsters on the radar (16:57)? McEnroe explains how Zheng’s Spanish coach and her setup will bring a mental aspect to her athleticism that will help her a lot (19:23). There are development parallels with Li Na, but also in how their games have both been rooted in the Chinese system and have embraced the global system, too (21:35). Training for tennis is unique – you need to compete against players better than you, so you need to travel to where the better players are (23:15).

Is Peng Shuai still a topic with the players on tour (26:25)? Are the men’s and women’s tours — the ATP and the WTA — talking about this together? McEnroe spoke to WTA boss Steve Simon recently on his podcast to talk about China and says he thinks the WTA is looking for a solution, while the ATP could be back in China as soon as the borders re-open (29:49).

McEnroe gives his thoughts on why there are no good Chinese male players, saying that the girls can train with boys to get better, but boys have to travel, adding that athleticism has become very important in the men’s game — it’s no longer enough to just be a good player (34:12). Finally, he shares his thoughts on the recent Casper Ruud and Holger Rune dispute at the net and tells some stories from his past — his own beef with Andre Agassi and a time when Andy Roddick had an issue with a young Novak Djokovic at the US Open (38:41).