Qinwen Zheng can be a Grand Slam contender and superstar

James Richardson
Qinwen Zheng
Zheng Qinwen of China plays a backhand return.

Chinese No 1 Qinwen Zheng has qualities that make you want to root for her and a terrific upside on the court.

She has been impressive in her start to the Australian Open behind a first serve that Qinwen has used to keep her opponents on the back foot.

Qinwen started her season with a loss to Iga Swiatek but found her feet with United Cup wins over Olga Danilovic and Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

After a strong display at the WTA Elite Trophy where she became the second Chinese player to reach the championship match, Qinwen finished the season at a career-high No 14 on the rankings.

Already the Chinese No 1 there is a sense that we have barely scratched the surface of what she might achieve.

Breakthrough upon breakthrough for rising star

Qinwen had made her WTA Tour title breakthrough in 2023 first winning a 250 event in Palermo before her home swing provided her the chance to win the WTA 500 in Zhengzhou.

Having won her home event, Qinwen took up the karaoke microphone in celebration in an example of her undeniable charm.

Wim Fissette coached Qinwen Zheng for the majority of 2023 before he resigned to rejoin former charge Naomi Osaka soon after the US Open.

Qinwen declared in December 2023 that she and her former coach Pere Riba were back together in a move that settles down a difficult training situation.

For the most of the previous two years, Zheng and Riba collaborated, particularly during Zheng’s historic 2022 season, which saw her reach the Tokyo WTA singles final, breach the Top 30, and be crowned the WTA’s Newcomer of the Year.

They parted ways in June 2023 and then got back together six months later.

Qinwen, the 2022 WTA Newcomer of the Year, has proven herself worthy of the title after achieving a number of significant milestones in 2023.

Prior to making a breakthrough run to the US Open quarter-finals last term, she had won her first WTA championship on the clay courts of Palermo.

She would then make her debut in the top 20, capping up what appears to have been an important spell in her career with her maiden WTA 500 win in her own country.

Chinese trailblazer values patience

Qinwen became only the third Chinese woman to win a title at WTA 500-level or higher, joining two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na and Zheng Saisai when she took the Zengzhou crown.

She feels that she has learned patience through the 2023 season, as she entertained some thoughts of making grand progress.

Qinwen believes this has bled into her game in individual matches too as she learns to not try and force every point and overpower her opponents.

“I said to myself… I know you really want to win but let’s just focus on the present, don’t think about the result, just play point by point try to fight,” Qinwen said late last year.

“Try to make the ball alive to try to find the way to win the rally, don’t be too rushed and that’s what I said to myself, just be in the present, don’t think about the result.”

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