China should focus on grassroots - ITF president

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BEIJING, Oct 12 (Reuters) China must focus on the grassroots of tennis, not just developing top players and hosting big tournaments, according to International Tennis Federation (ITF) president Francisco Ricci Bitti.

Ricci Bitti praised Beijing today on having one of the best tennis venues in the world after visiting the city's Olympic Tennis Centre, which was completed in September.

''These kind of good courts should be available to local people and not just used for big events,'' the Italian said.

''This is the first condition for developing the sport.

''China still need to work more on the grassroots.'' Chinese women enjoyed considerable success in 2006, with Zheng Jie and Yan Zi winning two grand slam doubles titles and Li Na reaching the singles quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

However, injury and loss of form have stalled Chinese progress this year.

''More facilities should be supplied to young players,'' said Ricci Bitti. ''Also they need better coaching.'' With a WTA Crown Jewel tournament set to be held in the Olympic Tennis Centre along with an ATP Masters Series tournament in Shanghai from 2009, Ricci said China should also establish a strong competition structure at all levels.

''Top tournaments are important,'' he said. ''But they are not enough, because they are not for local people.'' REUTERS PDS RK1650

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