Three Chinese tennis players fought for their flags in the French Open main draw on Monday, but only one advanced to the next round, marking the first win for China at the Roland Garros’ men’s singles in 86 years.
Zhang Zhizhen, 26, made history at Roland Garros by winning his match against Serbian tennis player Dusan Lajovic after the latter withdrew from their game due to a stomach virus.
Zhang, currently ranked No. 71 in men’s singles, led the match 6-1 and 4-1 before Lajovic’s withdrawal.
Celebrating his win, Zhang told reporters, “We have so many [people] waiting for us to get the first win. Just step by step, and then we can get a lot of wins.”
Zhang will face Argentina’s Thiago Agustin Tirante, currently ranked No. 153 in men’s singles, for the round of 64 on Thursday.
Although he has said he is not fond of playing on clay courts, Zhang noted that most of his wins have been on such courts.
As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly fond of playing on clay courts. But all of my best results have actually come from playing on this very surface. It just goes to show that how these things are often unpredictable and don’t go according to plan.
Zhang is currently the first tennis player representing China to win and advance into the French Open rounds in 86 years.
The last time this happened was on May 23, 1937, when Kho Sin Kie beat France’s Gaby Mercier-Odier 6-3, 6-2 and 6-3 at the French Open, which was called the French Championships at the time.
Kho eventually lost in the next round against English tennis player Charles Edgar Hare by 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6 and 6-2.
Shang lost to No. 94 Juan Pablo Varillas of Peru by 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 and 6-1, while Wu was knocked out by No. 19 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in a sweeping victory of 7-6, 6-1 and 6-1.
Zhang’s recent history-making moment is just one of the Chinese tennis player’s many achievements.
Nicknamed “Triple Z,” the Chinese star became the first Chinese man to qualify for Wimbledon since “the Open Era” in 1968. He qualified after beating Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo at the qualifiers on June 28, 2021.
Zhang made history again over a year later when he became the first male Chinese tennis player to reach the Association of Tennis Professionals Top 100 rankings in October 2022.