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Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Updated: 2014-09-05 07:02 (chinadaily.com.cn)

Peng Shuai's road to US Open semifinal:

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Qf: Bt 17-year-old Swiss Belinda Bencic 6-2, 6-1

Last 16: Bt 14th-seeded Czech Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-4

3rd round: Bt 28th-seeded Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-4 6-3

2nd round: Bt 4th-seeded Polish A Radwanska 6-3 6-4

1st round: Bt Chinese compatriot Zheng Jie 6-3 6-3

Peng Shuai joins two-time Grand Slam winner Li Na and doubles star Zheng Jie as the only Chinese players to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament.

With Li at the center of Internet rumors and denials of impending retirement and Zheng's all too often failure to progress past the early rounds in singles, will Peng be able to take up the challenge to become the poster girl for Chinese tennis? Her success at the US Open has sparked inevitable comparisons. 


Peng on Li

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle? 

"She's one of the really good players because she has had a lot of big wins. But everybody is different. She is she and I am me".

Although Peng admits to feeling more pressure of Chinese expectation with Li absent with a knee injury, she says that didn't mean she was content to toil in her colleague's shadow.

"I never feel like I am in her shadow, because I love to play. That's why I continue". 

Differing personalities

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

In China, Li is regarded as the more selfish player. Worth an estimated $40 million, she is open about her desire to cash in on her success and has roiled the country by snubbing it at just about every turn. She set Twitter alight after winning theAustralian Openin January by thanking everyone except the Chinese Tennis Association.

Peng is regarded as more humble and Party-friendly. Asked why she continues to play for her provincial team while Li only appears on the pro circuit, Peng says: "It's only once a year and I'm happy to do it. From a young age, I got support from [theTianjinteam]. If they ask me, I'm really appreciative. It's not that difficult." 

Coaching conundrum

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Unlike Li and Zheng, who travel with their husbands and have their own teams, Peng has experienced a coaching merry-go-round during her professional career. She has been working with former coach, Ma Kaiwei, since parting company with Swede Thomas Hogstedt after this year'sFrench Open.

"He (Thomas) began to coach other players, even during the French Open," says Peng. "I have to say my lagging behind has something to do with that (unsteady coaching staff)." 

Market values

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

The softly-spoken and humble Peng, her voice barely rising above a whisper when being interviewed on court after a match, poses no threat to Forbes list regular Li, who makes no bones about her wit in front of the media to become the sponsors' darling.

Sports marketing experts say Peng needs at least one Grand Slam title to increase her marketing value. 

Fashion couples

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

Peng Shuai's healthy and sunny image is also favored by fashion magazines and ad posters as Li Na. She featured in a photoshoot for the August edition of Women's Health magazine ahead of the US Open where she has reached her first Grand Slam semifinal. The 28-year-old shot a series of fashion photos and wrote about tennis and her life for the Chinese version of one of Europe and America's best-selling magazines, focusing on women's sports and health.

Love match?

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

The 28-year-old Peng tried to contain her emotions during her quarterfinal post-match interview about past ups and downs during her 37th Grand Slam campaign. Now, like her elder married sisters, she has company and a keen supporter in an Italian boyfriend she has been dating for six months. 

Peng Shuai profile

Peng Shuai picks up Li Na's mantle?

    Native: Tianjin, China

     Born: Jan 8, 1986 (age 28)

     Birthplace: Xiangtan, Hunan province

      Height: 1.73 meters;Weight: 61.2 kg

      Plays: Right-handed (two-handed both sides)

      Favorite shot: Forehand; Favorite surface: Hard

      Turned pro: 2001

      Introduced to tennis: At age of 8 by uncle

Related stories about Peng Shuai:

Heart and soul drives Peng to Slam breakthrough

37th time the charm for China's Peng at US Open

Under-pressure Peng tells Li Na - wish you were here

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