Zhang of China makes breakthrough despite loss at Wimbledon

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The first man to represent China in the main draw at Wimbledon during the Open era was eliminated in the opening round Tuesday.

Zhang Zhizhen lost to Antoine Hoang of France, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-2, but found consolation in getting a chance to play on tennis’ grandest stage.

“I’m really happy to be a Chinese man here, especially this year, a very tough year,” Zhang said. “For me it’s a very good experience. It’s not really bad to lose, you know?”

Even so, Zhang noted a wall at the All England Club displaying flags from different nations, and he speculated the Chinese flag might hang more prominently if he had won a match or two.

“It’s quite hard to find the Chinese country,” he said. With a smile he added, “Maybe in the second or third round it would be easier to find the Chinese flag, eh?”

Ranked 175th, Zhang faded at the finish in a matchup between qualifiers. In the final set he struggled with his serve, while Hoang had an 11-4 edge in winners.

The 24-year-old Zhang won three matches in qualifying to make Wimbledon's main draw. He failed in three previous attempts to qualify at Grand Slam tournaments.

Li Na has had China’s greatest success in tennis. She won women’s singles titles at the 2011 French Open and 2014 Australian Open and was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2019.

The last Chinese men to compete in the main draw at Wimbledon were Chu Chen-Hua and Mei Fu-Chi in 1959. Chinese men have also competed at the Australian Open, and are now 0-7 in Grand Slam matches in the Open era, which began in 1968.

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