China’s tennis prodigy, Zhang Zhizhen, is poised to create history on the courts of his hometown, Shanghai, as he eyes a coveted spot in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters. If he succeeds, Zhang will etch his name in the annals of tennis history as the first Chinese player to reach this stage in the prestigious ATP Masters event.
Currently in the round of 16 at this hard-court tournament, the 26-year-old is determined to continue his historic run as he prepares to face the 16th seed, Hubert Hurkacz.
“I’m quite happy to be in the second week of the Masters. I always wanted to play tennis well in my hometown and in front of my family, and finally, this time, I did. Hopefully, I can keep going,” Zhang expressed to the media.
Zhang has previously faced Hurkacz at the 2019 event but was bested by the Polish player in a 2-0 defeat.
“I still remember that match. I had the opportunity to win the first set, but I didn’t grasp it,” Zhang reflected. “Four years have passed; we are both improving. It’s going to be a tough match,” he added, looking ahead to his upcoming showdown with Hurkacz.
In preparation for this crucial match, Zhang made the decision to skip his doubles match with Italian partner Jannik Sinner, where they were scheduled to face Rajeev Ram of the US and Joe Salisbury of the UK.
“Our doubles match has been canceled, but, of course, we both will focus more on singles because singles are more important,” Zhang explained. “Sinner had a very good performance in China. For me, I’ve also played a lot of matches in China so far, so both of us think that we need to focus more on singles.”
Zhang’s reference to his recent matches in China includes his triumph at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, where he clinched the men’s singles gold medal, marking China’s first gold in the discipline in 29 years.
Reflecting on the victory, Zhang emphasized how it boosted his confidence. “I am more confident after winning, though the Asian Games were not that intense. But it’s still a gold medal, so that definitely boosted my self-confidence. It also gives me more confidence in facing difficulties that I might encounter this week.”
Zhang has been making waves in the tennis world, becoming the first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist from China in May at the Madrid Masters. He reached his career-high ATP ranking of No. 52 in July after making it to the last 32 in the French Open, marking the highest-ever ranking for a player from East Asia. Zhang’s remarkable journey continued as he defeated Casper Ruud of Norway at the US Open, becoming the first Chinese man to beat a top-five opponent.
In addition to his on-court accomplishments, Zhang shared some of his quirky habits when competing. “I go to the same place to eat, and then I drink coconut water every day. I think many people have small things that we are obsessed with, especially when we are winning,” he revealed.
With history within his grasp at the Shanghai Masters, tennis enthusiasts eagerly anticipate Zhang Zhizhen’s journey as he continues to make a mark in the world of tennis.