Newly-crowned Wimbledon doubles' champions Zheng Jie and Yan Zi believe success at the All-England Club will raise confidence for their bid for glory at the Beijing Olympics.
Yan Zi (R) and Zheng Jie of China hold their Women's Doubles Championship trophies on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, July 9, 2006. [AP]
"The victory on the grass gave me great confidence and it will help us and the team shift up a gear before Beijing 2008," said Zheng. "We have been through a lot of hard moments over the past two weeks, so now we've become stronger mentally and technically."
The duo, both from Chengdu, Sichuan Province, returned to Beijing yesterday afternoon to a warm welcome from the Chinese Tennis Association (CTA) and waiting media.
"We learned a lot from the Wimbledon trip," said Yan. "We had very limited time to get used to the tricky grass court, so to be frank, I didn't expect such a great result.
"I am getting more confident about the coming hard-court season and the Olympic Games. We displayed very good tennis on a surface we really dislike."
The pair was playing in just their second Wimbledon Open this year, after they were ousted in the second round in their first attempt in 2004.
They beat Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the women's doubles final on Sunday afternoon UK time.
The trophy has elevated Zheng and Yan to No 3 and No 4 respectively in the WTA doubles rankings and earned them a berth in the year's eight-pair finale in Madrid, Spain, in November.
As well as rankings points, Sichuan province is set to reward them for their efforts. Sichuan Sports Academy has promised a 200,000 RMB yuan (US$25,000) bonus each and Chengdu Municipal Government will also provide prize money of the same amount.
Sun Jinfang, director of CTA, said the Wimbledon title is a springboard for the whole nation.
"This is a long-awaited success for all of us," she said. "But it's also just a step on the road to our final target - the Beijing Olympics.
"Now, the breakthrough is there and we need to keep the momentum to become a steady force in the world. I am looking forward to seeing more Chinese players like them emerging on the tour."
Zheng and Yan became the first Chinese Grand Slam winners at the Australian Open women's doubles' event this year and made the semi-finals at the French Open in May.
The national team starts training today for the Fed Cup World Group Play-offs against Germany this weekend in Beijing. A win will lift China to the eight-team world group in 2007.