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Zheng continues inexorable rise

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-27 09:16
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Now having catapulted up the rankings from No 143 in January to her current No 28, Zheng is endeavoring to keep ever-soaring expectations in check.

"It's definitely given me another confidence boost, but I'd rather stay calm than being overconfident," said Zheng, who has already drawn comparisons to her legendary compatriot Li Na, a retired two-time Grand Slam singles champion (2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open).

"I will try to focus on each and every training session, approach one match at a time and not think too far or too much about the future.

"The key to coming back stronger is to learn from the loss and reflect on these experiences to improve on my weaknesses."

Encouraged by her parents, Zheng picked up a tennis racket for the first time aged 6 in her home province Hubei in Central China, also where the trailblazing Li hails from.

She later moved to Beijing to develop her talent at an academy run by Argentine guru Carlos Rodriguez, who coached Li to her second major victory in Melbourne in 2014.

Now based in Barcelona training with Spanish coach Pere Riba, a former ATP world No 65, Zheng has set her sights on diversifying her arsenal beyond her blistering forehand and serve in order to mix it up with the world's best.

China's current top ace Zhang Shuai, who reached the semifinals in Tokyo, reckons Zheng will be a force to be reckoned with on the tour for many years to come.

"She plays so well. One day I am sure she will win Grand Slams," Zhang said of Zheng after losing to Samsonova in straight sets in the semifinal.

"I've never seen someone, a girl, play stronger than her. She plays fast and aggressively, with a strong serve, backhand and forehand," said Zhang, who practiced with Zheng in Tokyo before the tournament.

"She can make really strong cross-court and down-the-line shots on both sides, making opponents run a lot and hitting good winners.

"She's still so young. She could play many years on the tour. She's a very nice person off the court too. I really like her," added Zhang, who will next play at a WTA 250 tournament in Tallinn, Estonia.

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