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."