Zhang Zhizhen becomes Chinese mainland’s first seeded male player at Wimbledon
Published: Jun 27, 2024 10:41 PM
Zhang Zhizhen Photo: VCG

Zhang Zhizhen Photo: VCG

Chinese tennis ace Zhang Zhizhen will make history as the first man from the Chinese mainland to participate in a Grand Slam tournament as a seeded player when the 137th Wimbledon Championships begin on July 1. 

Due to the withdrawal of world No.26 Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, Zhang will lead the Chinese charge as a total of 10 Chinese athletes have gained direct entry into the main draw, competing against the world's elite tennis players at the All England Club for the third Grand Slam event of the season.

Thanks to his recent solid performances, the 28-year-old Zhang has reached a career high of No.33 in the latest world rankings, marking a new height for Chinese men's singles players. The top 32 players automatically qualify as seeds, ensuring a direct path to the main draw at Wimbledon.

Liu Yu, a Beijing-based sports commentator, told the Global Times on Thursday that Zhang is expected to improve from his first-round defeat in 2023. 

"He has the ability to compete at this level and he has the skills and determination needed to perform well. However, success in a Grand Slam event depends on various factors including form, matchups, and handling the pressure of such a prestigious stage," said Liu. 

When facing the world's elite players, victory often hinges on the details, Liu noted. 

At the All England Club in 2023, Zhang was knocked out by Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands in a five-set thriller in the opening round.

Last week, Zhang reached the semifinals at the Terra Wortmann Open in Halle, Germany, after prevailing against Christopher Eubanks of the US, but Zhang's dream of his first grass court tour final was cut short by world No.1 Jannik Sinner of Italy.  

"I need to further improve my first serve percentage on the grass court. Playing on grass emphasizes the importance of net play skills, an area where I also need to continue to make up ground," he said after losing to Sinner, who won the Australian Open in January. 

In 2021, Zhang became the first man from the Chinese mainland during the Open Era to play in the main draw at Wimbledon. 

In the ladies' singles, Zheng Qinwen is one of contenders for the title after her scintillating run in the 2024 Australian Open.

The 21-year-old became the second Chinese woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final after Li Na but fell short of Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the final at Melbourne. 

The world No.8 reached the third round in 2022 but suffered a first-round knockout in 2023.

"Compared to the hard court, Zheng has not been doing well on the grass court. She relies heavily on consistent baseline rallies or heavy topspin, these strategies may be less effective on grass. It also takes a longer time for her to adapt to grass conditions, including footwork, timing, and shot selection," Liu said. 

"Developing specific strategies that capitalize on the grass court's characteristics, such as incorporating slice shots, approaching the net more often, and being aggressive on shorter balls may help her game," Liu added. 

Zheng will be joined by her compatriots such as Wang Xinyu, Zhu Lin, Wang Xiyu and Yuan Yue. 

According to the All England Club, this year's event boasts a total prize money pool of a record 50 million pounds ($63.2 million).