For the first time in Open era history, three Chinese men, namely Zhang Zhizhen, Wu Yibing, and Shang Juncheng, will compete in this year’s French Open main draw. Has the best time of Chinese men’s tennis come?
Zhang, the eldest of the trio, answered in a pre-tournament interview on Saturday that “Not the best, but only getting better and better.
“Right now, it’s the three of us, but perhaps in the future, we might have four or even five. I hope to see more and more Chinese players participating in the main draw. And personally, I aim to maintain my ranking and stay within the main draw. That’s my goal,” said the 26-year-old, who eliminated several seeded players to make it all the way to the Madrid Open quarterfinals a few weeks ago, becoming the first Chinese mainland men’s player to do so.
Featuring in the main draw at Roland Garros for the first time, Zhang has set another milestone, becoming the first Chinese mainland male player to play all four Grand Slams at that stage, but is yet to claim a first-round victory.
“I have already lost three five-set battles at this stage, so there is some expectation for improvement. I hope to perform better this time, and at worst, it will only be fourth. I still have a good chance,” he said.
The world No.70 will take on the in-form Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who ranks No. 51 and just claimed his second ATP Tour singles title at Banja Luka, defeating 22-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic en route.
“Playing against high-level opponents has always boosted my own form. I know he is a tough player, but I haven’t played against him before, so I have to study his play before the clash,” Zhang said. “If I want to win, I need to play my best, make all the necessary preparations, and not have any sense of complacency.”