China's poor French Open campaign was partly due to injuries but the players' fragile mentality also played a major role, according to the head coach of the national team.
Sun Tiantian of China (R)returns a shot as partner Sun Shengnan watches during French Open June 3,2007.[Xinhua]
"It's partly down to the injuries, but I think it's more a mental problem," coach Jiang Hongwei said on the China Tennis Association (CTA)'s Web site.
"The desire of the players is not as great as it was last year. If we don't break through to the next level on the tour, we will have problems preparing for the Beijing Olympics," he added.
"Our women's players haven't made any major improvement this year and I haven't seen the breakthrough that I expected."
World number 32 Peng Shuai pulled out with an ankle injury, Zheng Jie and Sun Tiantian departed in the first round, while 16th seed Li Na lost in the third to Austrian Sybille Bammer in Paris.
Li's exit was not overly surprising as clay is not her favourite surface and the disappointment of the women's doubles rankled Jiang more.
Third seeds Yan Zi and Zheng, champions at the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, lost at the first hurdle, while Olympic champion Sun Tiantian and her new partner Sun Shengnan made it just one round further.
"Women's doubles should be our strength but our advantage has almost gone," said Jiang. "The team is a bit low right now, they need some encouragement and to get back the desire.
"We did make technical improvements, but we still want to strengthen the mental side. There is still a gap mentally between our players and the foreigners.
Zheng, ranked 52nd in singles and sixth in doubles, was also carrying an injury, but Jiang said it was not too serious.
"French medical staff said she had an old injury inflaming her ankle, but she needs no surgery," he said.
Chinese women's tennis enjoyed a stellar year in 2006, highlighted by Li moving into the world's top 20 and Zheng claiming singles titles at Estoril and Stockholm.