The Chinese men have been lighting up the ATP Challenge Tour recently, no more so than Zhang Zhizhen, who recently won his third title in the challenge. After winning back-to-back runners-up at Luedenscheid, Germany and Trieste, Italy, it was a trip to Cordenons, Italy where Zhang claimed his first Challenge title of the season.
“My feelings after the win were very happy, because it was my third time this year to reach the final and the last two times to lose. In Luedenscheid it was difficult to win the match, but in Trieste it was very close to three sets. There was a chance, but I didn’t understand it.
“This time (Cordenos), after losing the first set, I was thinking ‘Oh, again, again (I’m going to lose),’ I don’t want it to be like that. “So, when I won the last point I was really excited.”
Last week, Zhang and Shang Juncheng became the first Chinese duo to win the Challenger titles in the same week (Shang won in Lexington, Kentucky).
Three weeks ago, Zhang narrowly missed making history with fellow countryman Wu Yiping, who triumphed in Indianapolis the same week the 25-year-old fell in the Trieste Final. Zhang made sure that the historical moment would not escape his hands a second time.
“It’s history for us, but I missed the opportunity earlier, the same week that Wu Yiping won in Indianapolis,” Zhang said. This time I was like, ‘I don’t want to miss the chance! “
China has never had a player reach the top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Ranking, but Zhang thinks he could be the one to change that. In 2020, the Shanghai native climbed to 136th, the highest ranking ever achieved by a male Chinese player. Now chasing a breakthrough in the top 100, the world number 161 is hoping to be the man to make Chinese tennis history.
But he is not the only Chinese player to have his eye on the top 100 list. Zhang is in a race with Wu, who he posts frequently on WeChat, to reach this milestone. Wu, 22, has three Challenger titles this season, and at number 173 in the world, he is currently only 12 places behind Zhang.
“I think it’s me, not Wu Yiping (who will do it first),” he joked. “I hope he can also get to that (top 100). We want to be quick to break that goal and we seem to be in a very good position. We talk about everything… but we don’t need to talk about (the ranking) because we both know it’s our target.”
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Zhang thinks we’ll only start to see more Chinese men climb the rankings, including the latest Lexington Challenger champion, 17-year-old Shang. After Zhang and Zhang crowned championships last week, Jerry first reached out to the Shanghai native to congratulate him.
Jerry texted me first and said ‘Congratulations! Then I also said, “Congratulations!” Zhang said. “I was at the hotel and just sat down to dinner. (After) pizza and beer, I took a picture and sent it to him. Then he sent me a picture of water in a restaurant with his family and coach.”
with training Luca Kotanjakworld number 161 will travel to Poland for Open Kozerki Before traveling to the United States, where it was entered in US Open habilitation. If he advances, Zhang will become the first Chinese man to compete in US Open The main draw in the open era. Zhang has fond memories of reaching Wimbledon Last season’s draw and became the first Chinese man to qualify for it Wimbledon in the open era.
“It was very special for me. Last season was my first time playing on grass and then I passed the playoffs. Wimbledon, I did not expect that. There are a lot of memories there.”
Zhang hopes there will be more in the future.