Zhang Zhizhen became the first Chinese man in the Open era to qualify for Wimbledon main draw.© AFP
Zhang Zhizhen qualified for Wimbledon on Thursday to become the first Chinese man in the Open era to play in the Grand Slam tournament. The 24-year-old defeated Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo 6-0, 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (8/6) in the final round of qualifying to make the main draw. Ranked 178 in the world, Shanghai native Zhang is the only Chinese man in the world top 250. He is also only the fourth Chinese man to play singles in the main draw of a Grand Slam since 1968 after Wu Di at the Australian Open in 2013, 2014 and 2016, Zhang Ze at the Australian Open in 2014 and 2015, and Li Zhe at the 2019 Australian Open.
Until Thursday, Zhang had tried and failed to qualify for this year’s Australian Open and French Open.
“My full name is too hard for people to say, so I just tell them to say whatever they want to call me and I will respond,” he said recently when explaining his nickname of ‘ZZZ’.
“Then it became ‘ZZZ’ because there are three Zs in my name. It is much easier for people outside of China to say. And it sounds cool. Triple-Z. I also like to sleep, so ‘ZZZ’ is perfect.”
Unlike China’s men, the country’s women have shone at the Slams with Li Na winning the French Open in 2011 and Australian Open three years later.
Li made the quarter-finals at the All England Club in 2006, 2010 and 2013 while Zheng Jie reached the 2008 semi-finals.
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