Tennis Prose



Zhizhen Zhang Finally Blossoming In Madrid

This week has changed the career of Zhizhen Zhang. The Chinese stylist had a bad habit of blowing match points in big matches and not finishing opponents he was in control of.

At US Open last year first round main draw after qualifying, Zhang blew seven or eight match points in the third set vs. Tim van Rijthoven and lost the heartbreaker in five.

Then in the Aussie Open first round Zhang led Ben Shelton two sets to one but ultimately lost 64 36 26 62 67. I believe Zhang had match points vs Shelton also. Those are two devastating and possible psyche destroying losses which could take years to overcome. Or some players never recover after such tragic failures.

This week in Madrid, Zhang has suddenly he’s found his killer instinct. In round of 32 he defeated Cam Norrie 26 76 76.

Earlier in Madrid he beat Shapovalov 67 64 76. These are the two best wins of Zhang’s career, he’s now into the round of 16 of a 1000, the best result by far for the 26 year old ranked 99 in the world.

Before this week Zhang only won eleven ATP World Tour matches since turning pro in 2012.

Perhaps the mental battle inside Zhang’s own head was resolved last October when he beat world no. 37 Sebastian Baez 76 76 and 13-11 in the second set tiebreaker.

Or was the mental curse lifted at Indian Wells qualies in the 67 63 76 win vs. Chinese teenager Junsheng Shang?

Whatever, whenever or wherever Zhang got over his mental block doesn’t really matter now. What matters now is he’s playing the best tennis of his life and he’s begun the habit of slaying ATP dragons on a consistent basis.

If Zhang continues to learn and build confidence and aura, it’s possible he could be a top 20 or 10 player in the future.

In the round of 16 Zhang will meet American Taylor Fritz, who is ranked no. 10 in the world. The two veterans have never played a pro match against each other.

Z Zhang Biofile interview by Scoop Malinowski

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  • Scoop Malinowski · May 2, 2023 at 7:31 am

    Zhang was 0-3 in ATP matches before this week, now he’s won 3 this week in Madrid.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 2, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Incredible, Zhang wins again in third set tiebreaker, he blew 7 or 8 mps vs van rijthoven at us open last year, in third set, then lost in five. heart of lion by zhang! blew match points vs seppi a few years ago. Zhang is now playing top ten tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 2, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    It really is wonderful to see a young player who suffers several excruciating heartbreaking losses with match points, bounce back stronger, than to fade away with tail between legs never to threaten the elites again. Zhang is the former, very inspiring story what Zhang is doing now. Hope he keeps going.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 2, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    Amazing Zhang is now a third set tiebreaker king, he has won all three this week vs Norrie, Shap, Fritz, all legit top ten caliber players. First Chinese players into a 1000 QF. Saved 3 MPs vs Fritz today. I first saw Zhang play at US Open qualies last year vs Trugletti 1R, he really hit the ball hard, sounded like a baseball batting practice, cracking shots with that Head racquet. Karatsev is next, he said he lost 60 in practice to Karatsev once. 5050 match.



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