With Grand Slam winner Li Na heading up a group of talented women’s players in China, Zhang Ze – China’s top male tennis player – is determined to break into the top 100 of the world, although his country certainly going to make it easy for him.
In a recent press interview Guillaume Peyre, Zhang’s current coach and former coach to number 2 women’s player Peng Shuai, described just how difficult it is for the country’s best tennis players to reach those elevated positions on the world’s stage. In a country that is more focused on the results of Olympic events or Asian events, players have to depend on the government for support and training which doesn’t leave them with much. Peyre explained that even though the playing facilities in China are some of the best in the world, it’s the country’s inherent bureaucracy that stands in the way of the progress of these elite tennis players.
Summing up the Chinese system as something that “is not adapted to tennis which is an individual sport with individual plans”, Peyre went on to describe the difficulties that players face accessing suitable training partners, visas for competitions abroad and even consistent medical care – “sometimes it can take two or three months to get a visa…..you can’t get an MRI scan when you want… (in China) there is no flexibility.”
Despite this, Zhang and Peyre have high hopes of breaking into the top 100 in the world before the 2012 tennis season is out. 21-year-old Zhang, also known as Big George, has climbed over 200 places up the rankings in the past 12 months and currently resides at 227th in the world. Peyre believes the best is yet to come though, saying that his charge has “the potential, but he needs to make a lot of progress in his technique and especially in his tactics”.
Already showing promising flair in the qualifying round matches that he’s played so far this season, Zhang has the hopes of his fellow Chinese men’s players on his shoulders as he competes in the opening rounds of Wimbledon next week. No doubt aiming to improve on his second round exit from last month’s Roland Garros, Zhang has the full support of his coach who believes that he could be the catalyst for change needed for the Chinese team to reach the Davis Cup World Group