Teenager Shang Juncheng said his breakthrough victory in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday was “huge” for Chinese men’s tennis, and hoped it would lay the platform for more success to match the country’s women.
The 17-year-old became the first male player from China to win a main draw singles match at the tournament in the open era when he stunned German Otte 6-2, 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5 on his Grand Slam debut as the youngest player in the men’s draw.
“Yeah, I think it’s huge for Chinese men’s tennis. You know, we have had really good players from the women’s side, but not really big names in the men’s,” Shang told reporters.
“So I think we are very lucky that I’m part of it, and I’m very lucky that I’m part of this team. Hopefully we can do something big in the future.”
China’s Li Na remains the country’s most successful player with Grand Slam triumphs at Roland Garros in 2011 and Melbourne Park in 2014 and there are several women hoping to emulate her including 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year Zheng Qinwen.
Others like Yan Zi, Zheng Jie, Sun Tiantian, Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai have all won Grand Slam doubles trophies.
But success on the men’s side has largely eluded the world’s most populous nation, with Wu Yibing becoming the first man from China in 63 years to win a singles match at a major when he overcame Nikoloz Basilashvili in the 2022 US Open.
He followed in the footsteps of Fu Chi Mei, who overcame Ron Barnes in five sets in the opening round of Wimbledon in 1959.
“It’s a complicated thing,” Shang, the son of former football star Shang Yi and former table tennis player Wu Na, said about the time it has taken for Chinese men to get to the level they have in men’s professional tennis.
“I’m not quite sure how to answer that, but physically it’s a big step for us in men’s tennis. But we’re on the right track right now .Hopefully we can do a better job in the slams, in three-out-of-five sets and hopefully that can happen in the future.”
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