Taiwan’s No. 1 tennis player Chan Yung-jan has one birthday wish this year — to play the Olympics final on the day she turns 19.
“My birthday is Aug. 17 which happens to be the last day of the tennis games and I do hope to play on that day,” said Chan, who will make her Olympics debut in both singles and doubles in Beijing.
For the doubles, she will team up with 23-year-old Chuang Chia-jung. The pair, who won the WTA Rome International in May, have been christened by local media as “Taiwan’s golden doubles.”
Chan currently ranks 71 in the world in singles and ninth in doubles while Chuang is eighth in doubles.
To get into her best shape, Chan has been training with a team of French coaches and has been playing on the US and Canadian tours to familiarize herself with the hardcourt surfaces that will be used in Beijing.
“I want to push myself to the best condition and keep the mood of being in a competition before the Olympics,” she said before a training session in Taipei.
Chan and Chuang made a breakthrough for Taiwan last year by reaching the Australian Open women’s doubles final. Although they lost the match to Zimbabwe’s Cara Black and South Africa’s Liezel Huber, it was a remarkable performance, coming as it did in the first Grand Slam tournament that they had played in as a doubles pair.
The duo, who were only playing in their third Tour-level event together, became the first from Taiwan to play a major final. They followed it up by making the US Open final the same year.
Taiwan has never won any Olympic tennis medal and hopes are high that Chan and Chuang can make history in Beijing.
“To play the Olympics is a duty to your country and it is an honor. I will do my best and I am optimistic for good results,” Chan said.
“But I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I will try to turn the pressure into motivation,” she said.
Chan, a native of Tungshih (東勢), Taichung County, started learning tennis at six from her father Chan Yuan-liang, who serves as a coach for the Taiwan Olympic tennis team.
But she nearly gave up her favorite sport four years later when the nation’s worst earthquake in decades in September 1999 left her family in financial stress.
“The quake destroyed our house and we suffered great losses. My mother asked me at that time if I wanted to contiune playing tennis, my answer was positive,” Chan said. “She then decided to move the family to Taipei and give me three years to try.”
Chan said this life-changing experience helped her to be brave and better cope with stress.
Before Chan, Taiwan’s best-known player was Wang Shi-ting, who reached a career-high singles ranking of 26 in 1993.
• Born: Aug. 17, 1989
• Height: 1.70m
• Turned pro: August 2004
• Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles titles: 0
• Sony Ericsson WTA Tour doubles titles: 6
• Current singles ranking: 71
• Current doubles ranking: 9
• Miscellaneous: Favorite shot is backhand down the line; likes light rock music, Chinese food, swimming; favorite tournament is US Open; favorite surface is hardcourt