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CBN Special丨Rising star Zheng Qinwen leads young generation’s charge for Chinese tennis

2024-02-03 16:26:04 来源:
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Aryna Sabalenka, the 25-year-old Belarusian was serving for the match in the women’s singles final of the Australian Open, up 5-2 in the second set of a contest that seemingly passed in an instant.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

As in most of the match, the final game was going Sabalenka’s way. Leading 40-0, the defending champion had three match points. She was ready to win.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

“Jiayou,” one fan shouted, the ubiquitous cry of support from Chinese sports fans. “Jiayou,” another echoed. They were there for Zheng Qinwen, who would move into the world top 10 for the first time after this tournament.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

And the 21-year-old, who rolled through the draw without facing another seed, appeared to lift. One match point saved. Then a second. And a third. Then, for the first time, a show of frustration from Sabalenka. Close to 15,000 ticket holders had paid their money, and finally they found value in their entertainment. This was as much of a contest as they had seen all night.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

On the players duelled, and Zheng wasn’t going away. Sabalenka faulted, and rolled her eyes. Two points later she flung a ball away in frustration. How much longer did she have to be here?JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

For the spectators present, and the millions watching on television, a little longer would have been nice. The crowd regularly gasped at the ferocity of the groundstrokes exchanged. Although Zheng was clearly second best – she was broken in her first service game in each set – the Chinese player hit more winners than Sabalenka, and was only really let down by her second serve.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Zheng was trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo during Saturday's final, with a post about her performance being viewed over 100 million times and people calling her the "hope for Chinese tennis". On Sunday, another Weibo topic, viewed over 300 million times, argued that the 21-year-old, affectionately known as “Queen Wen,” was too tenacious to allow losing her first grand-slam final to hinder her progress.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

It referenced Li Na, China's sole grand-slam singles title winner. Li had lost her own first grand-slam final, also in Australia, in 2011 before triumphing at the French Open a little over four months later. She lost another Australian Open final in 2013 before finally prevailing there the following year to finish with two major crowns.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Zheng was the first player in four decades to advance through six rounds without playing anyone ranked in the top 50 — and was only the third in the Open era to reach a major final without facing a seeded player. Zheng's push to the final was two rounds better than her previous best run to the quarterfinals in New York last September.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

But the step up against No. 2-ranked Sabalenka proved too much.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

As one of the biggest serves on the women's tour, Zheng, who hit a tournament-leading 54 aces in Melbourne, had her lack of consistency under pressure exposed in the face of Sabalenka's near-flawless display of aggressive tennis, with the Belarusian power hitter dominating Zheng in first-serve percentage, first-serve points, break points won and total points won.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

The relentless weight of shots from her opponent and, more predominantly, of her own expectation, proved too much to handle for Zheng in the high-stakes matchup against Sabalenka, compared with their only previous meeting at last year's US Open quarterfinals.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Coming up just one step short of the ultimate prize, Zheng seemed inconsolable after the final. She held back tears at the award ceremony while gazing at the trophy when Sabalenka lifted it for a second time in a row. She kept stressing how much better she could've done during the post-match interviews, even with media all greeting her with words of encouragement.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Nothing seemed enough to satisfy the ambitious competitor, who's already achieved many "firsts" for Chinese tennis over the past two weeks Down Under.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

“I didn’t perform my best. That’s really pity for me, because I really want to show better than that,” Zheng said. "I think I can learn more with the loss today. And then I just hope next time I can come back as a better tennis player and come back stronger”, the player vowed, who came out of the court with a prize of about $1.13 million for making the final.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Becoming "Queen Wen"

Almost exactly 10 years after Li Na's historic title-winning at Melbourne Park, Zheng made her best run in nine majors to date. Zheng said during the tournament that she felt well-supported in Melbourne because of the big Chinese community. And that played out for the final, where the flags waved and she had the crowd behind her.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

The brightest of China’s growing cohort of bright tennis lights was 7 years old when she first picked up a racket. When Li lifted the Australian Open trophy, the then 11-year-old Zheng had since glued to her television and beamed.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Almost instantly, she was among the best children her age in her hometown, Shiyan, Central China’s Hubei Province. She loved the sport, and after two months she and her father traveled to the provincial capital Wuhan to show off her game to a more advanced coach. The opportunity thrilled her, and she soaked up compliments.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Being a sports prodigy in China, where it has not been uncommon for young children to grow up in sports academies and spend long periods away from their families from a young age, is not for the faint of heart. In Zheng’s case though, at least the hardship is paying off on the court.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Now, with her game fast maturing, and with many more tournaments to play at home and abroad, Zheng has almost certainly secured a career path to multiple Slams.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Nicknamed "Queen Wen," a homophone of her name Qinwen, Zheng now climbs up the world rankings to 7th place - considering she was 630th when she went pro in 2022 - marking a significant milestone in her career. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

"Before Sister Li Na’s victory, Grand Slam seemed untouchable for a Chinese player. Her wins made us realize that it is something that we can achieve," Zheng said. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

"I believe winning the championship would have fulfilled my expectations, and not achieving that indicates there is still more room for improvement," Zheng said at her post-match press conference on Saturday. “JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

However, her journey to the Australian Open final is an inspirational feat. "If I can contribute to the development of tennis in China, attracting more people to the sport, then that would be my honor," she responded. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Zheng's second-place finish was even acknowledged by China's diplomatic mission in Australia.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

"Zheng has showcased the positive, forward-looking spirit of Chinese athletes in this competition, demonstrating exceptional skills and unwavering determination," the Chinese Embassy in Australia said in a statement.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

"We sincerely wish Zheng to continue embodying the spirit of courage and perseverance in sports, building upon her achievements and making new contributions to the global prominence of Chinese tennis," it said.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Young tennis stars rising

With more than one billion people, China figured to be in prime position to become the next great tennis power. And both Li and Zheng are groundbreaking figures that inspire countless Chinese children to pick up tennis rackets. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Zheng's achievement comes at a time when some other Chinese players also made progress in the past year. A total of ten female and two male players from the Chinese mainland qualified for the main draw. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

As China's top-ranked singles elite, Zheng demonstrated by reaching the 2024 Australian Open final that she can not only blueprint a promising future for herself, but also herald a new chapter in Chinese tennis. Seven female players from China can be seen in the WTA top 100 rankings with four of them aged 22 or under.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

The 27-year-old Zhang Zhizhen, China's top-ranked men's singles player, also became the first player from the Chinese mainland to reach the quarterfinals of the men's doubles at any Grand Slam in the Open Era. Last year, he also won the men's singles title at the Asian Games, representing the first time that China has done so in nearly three decades.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

But looking ahead, Zhang, dubbed "Triple Z" by fans as an abbreviation of his name, said that he is focused on singles. At the Australian Open, he advanced to the second round, seeing his ranking rise into the world's top 50 for the first time and setting new records for Chinese men's tennis.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Over the last decade, particularly after Li's retirement, Chinese tennis experienced a lull. However, during this period of limited attention, the development path of professional tennis in China has gradually improved. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Shang Juncheng, 18, is another example of a Chinese tennis athlete to have made significant breakthroughs at the Australian Open. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Shang, who became the first Chinese mainland male player to reach the second round of the Australian Open in 2023, made it to the last 32 at the major this year. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

On the road of the youngest player to the men's draw, Shang defeated American Mackenzie McDonald in five sets and rising Indian star Sumit Nagal in four sets, before retiring early due to a leg injury in his challenge against world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

Female player Wang Yafan, returning from injury, also showcased consistent excellent form as she defeated former US Open winner in a three-set thriller in the second round, before being edged out by ultimate finalist Zheng in the third round. JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

"I think generally, China has really good tennis players in women and men," Zheng said. "All of us are trying to develop and improve as best as we can. Some of us are young. We are trying to explore how is our game style. Right now, we are in a really good position for Chinese tennis.”JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM

With more younger players coming to the fore, Zheng is not a lone wolf shouldering the responsibility of opening up a new era of Chinese tennis.JHP流量资讯——探索最新科技、每天知道多一点LLSUM.COM


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