Tennis: Djokovic says top Asian men's player is years away

Tennis: Djokovic says top Asian men's player is years away

BEIJING - World number one Novak Djokovic says it will be at least five years before Asia can produce a top-ranking men's player, and greater support for emerging players is the key.

Only one Asian is currently among the men's top 40, number 13-ranked Kei Nishikori from Japan, and he has trained in the United States since the age of 14 and is based there.

Women's tennis in Asia has been boosted by the emergence of Li Na, who has pioneered the sport in China due to her huge popularity as a 2011 French Open winner.

But the world number five remains the only singles Grand Slam winner from Asia, and Djokovic said more Asian stars are needed in men's tournaments to raise awareness of the sport.

"First we have to see Asian players more coming towards the top of men's tennis," he told reporters in Beijing Tuesday after winning his opening match at the China Open against Czech Lukas Rosol 6-0, 6-3.

"With bigger support and awareness about tennis, I think you can expect better results."

But he said Asia was still a long way from producing a player who could be "dominant".

"That is not realistic for Asian players at this moment because they haven't had any big success in Grand Slams," he said.

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