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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Sunday October 8, 2023

It has been a banner year for Chinese men’s tennis, with Wu Yibing setting the tone in February for the Chinese men by becoming the first man from China to claim an ATP title in Dallas.

With Wu shut down for the season, Zhang Zhizhen, another Chinese pioneer, is leading the way now.

Tennis Express

Earlier this season Zhang become the first Chinese man to reach a Masters 1000 quarterfinal in Madrid, and he’s closing in on that achievement again this week in Shanghai.

At the first staging of China’s Masters 1000 event since 2019, the nation finally finds itself with a homegrown player they can cheer for. The Shanghai native defeated Brandon Nakashima for a spot in the round of 16 on Sunday night to become the first Chinese man to reach the round of 16 in Shanghai, and he will face 16th-seeded Hurkacz for a spot in the quarterfinals next.

With one more win, Zhang could make his Top-50 debut, thereby becoming the first Chinese man to achieve the feat.

“I always wanted to play good tennis in front of my hometown and my family, and finally this time I did. Hopefully, I can keep going,” Zhang told reporters on Sunday.

The current World No.60 was the first Chinese man to ever crack the Top 100, and he’s angling for a Top-50 debut at some point, with his previous ranking high of 52 achieved in July.

Below is a list of some of Zhang’s recent achievements, from yesterday’s ATP media notes:

  • Became the first Chinese player in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history to break into Top 100 in October 2022 before achieving career-high No. 52 in July 2023 and reached his 1st ATP Tour SF at Hamburg later that month.
  • Won 3 consecutive matches in the final set tie-break to become the first Chinese player in ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at 2023 Madrid.
  • Qualified at 2021 Wimbledon, becoming 1st Chinese man to compete in main draw of that event in Open Era.
  • Became 1st Chinese man to defeat a Top-5 opponent, beating No. 5 Ruud en route to 2023 US Open 3R.
  • Also qualified at 2022 US Open, joining fellow qualifier Wu as 1st Chinese men to compete in main draw of that event in Open Era.
  • Advanced to ATP Tour QFs at 2017 Shenzhen as Q, 2022 Naples as qualifier and 2023 Eastbourne to become the first Chinese player in Open Era to reach ATP Tour QF on all three surfaces.

Zhang, who has record 18 wins in 2023 (18-15 overall). Had only 11 ATP wins to his name prior to this season.

At 6’4” and 192 he is a powerful, athletic baseliner that is finding his way on tour after years of struggling on the challenger circuit.

Zhang, who is coached by former World No.33 Yen-Hsun Lu, is displaying Top-20 potential this season. Along with Wu, aged 23 and ranked 101 (career-high ranking 54) and Shang Juncheng (aged 18, ranking 156) we can expect the Chinese men to be a factor on tour from years to come.

2023 is just the beginning of the rise of the Chinese man, and in the years to come, Zhang, Wu and Shang will be remembered as the ones who finally paved the way for them to get to the next level.