BEIJING, June 20 (Reuters) - China will have two seeds at Wimbledon for the first time next week with last year's semi-finalist Zheng Jie and the in-form Li Na looking to impress at the event where they achieved their best grand slam results.
Zheng captured the hearts of many at the All England Club last year when she beat top seed Ana Ivanovic on her way to the last four as a wild card ranked 133rd in the world.
With an Olympic doubles bronze medal from the Beijing Games and the women's tour comeback of the year award in her trophy cabinet, Zheng is now ranked 16th in the world and is China's number one.
The 25-year-old's fairytale run to the semis last year was the best performance by a Chinese player at a major, surpassing Li's quarter-final appearance at the grasscourt grand slam in 2006.
"I am happy with our rankings and Li Na is very gifted," Zheng, a Wimbledon doubles champion in 2006, told Xinhua.
The powerful Li is indeed talented but has a notoriously fragile temperament, which many blame for her inability to build on her breakthrough at Wimbledon three years ago.
Last week, however, she showed the impressive form that has propelled her back into the world top 20 at number 19 when she reached the final at the Edgbaston Classic with a victory over former world number one and Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova.
The 27-year-old surrendered the title to little-known Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova, however, losing the first set of the final to love and blaming "excessive excitement" after beating Sharapova.
At least it was better than her experience at the tournament in 2007, where coughing brought on by an allergic reaction to the grass caused a stress fracture in a rib, which ended her season.
Last year, Li was knocked out in the second round at Wimbledon but weeks later reached the last four at the Beijing Olympics, the most significant event for all Chinese athletes in 2008.
On Wednesday, however, the injury problems that have blighted her career struck again and she withdrew from the Eastbourne International warm-up tournament.
"She just felt a bit uncomfortable in the knee, it was not a big problem," said her husband and coach Jiang Shan.
Zheng had a patchy warm up for Wimbledon, also beaten by Rybarikova at the Edgbaston and then by Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak at Eastbourne.
However, the petite Sichuanese, known for her moblility and smart tactics, said she was in good shape.
"Both Li and me had serious injuries in 2007 but fortunately we both recovered well," said Zheng, who will play German Kristina Barrois in the first round.
Both players are now coached by their husbands under a revolutionary initiave by the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA), which allowed four top women players to be freed from the Soviet-style sports system.
They are now allowed to manage their own playing schedule as well as keep most of their prize money and commercial earnings, the majority of which was previously given back to the CTA.
Zheng, one of the most popular athletes in China, was recently signed by a Chinese sportswear company Anta, which also sponsors top Serbian Jelena Jankovic.
Li, who plays Kazakhstan's Galina Voskoboeva in the opening round, thinks this may be the start of a new era for China's women.
"I am excited," Li told Xinhua. "Chinese women tennis players are attracting more and more attention and sponsorship." (Reporting by Liu Zhen and Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Peter Rutherford;
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Here some pics of Jie and Na practising together for Wimbledon
(courtesy of Superna, Iknowwhoyouare
Best of luck girls !