Hong Kong: Japan's Kei Nishikori expressed shocked over Chinese star Li Na's injury-forced retirement on Friday but added that he hopes to become the new leader of tennis in Asia.
The US Open finalist, now Asia's top-ranked player at eighth, was speaking after 32-year-old Li quit over knee problems, just months after winning the Australian Open.
"It is a shock for me and for everybody, but she's done amazing things for Asian tennis," Nishikori told AFP during an ATP media visit to Hong Kong. Li became the first Asian national to win a Grand Slam singles title at the 2011 French Open, and then claimed her second major trophy at the Australian Open in January.
She has had a major impact on Asian tennis, which continued its upwards trajectory at the US Open when Nishikori became the first man from Asia to reach a Grand Slam final and China's Peng Shuai made it to the women's semis.
Nishikori said Li was leaving Asian tennis in good shape, adding he was now ready to act as a mentor for the region's emerging players.
"For sure, it is not good for Asian tennis but at the same time, there are more young guys coming up," Nishikori said. He added: "I feel I have to be the leader of Asian tennis and if I do well, people can believe themselves and help more Asian players coming up to play well in Grand Slams."