Chinese tennis saw another milestone on Thursday as Zhang Zhizhen broke into the men's singles third round at the French Open for the first time while his compatriot Wang Xinyu also booked a ticket in the women's last 32.
26-year-old Zhang claimed a straight-set victory 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-4 over Argentina's Thiago Agustin Tirante to become the first men's singles player from the Chinese mainland to reach the round of 32 at the clay-court major in the Open era.
"First of all it was a big victory for myself, especially in a Grand Slam. Those big moments for me were not easy," said the Shanghai-born player. "Here I'm trying to show my best...show everything I have and try to compete with those guys."
Zhang, who reached the quarterfinals at the Madrid Masters, squandered a match point in the ninth game of the third set but recovered to serve for the victory with a love game. Both players earned themselves seven break points during the match, with Zhang securing four against his opponent, a former junior world No.1, who managed only two.
Next for the world No.71 is last year's runner-up and fourth seed, Casper Ruud of Norway, who overcame Italian Giulio Zeppieri to progress.
"I have nothing to lose against a player like him, and it will be a game at one of the central courts. It is a privilege to play in the central court in a Grand Slam, I just plan to enjoy it," Zhang said, looking ahead to his next match.
Zhang is also the first male player from the Chinese mainland to have participated in the main draw in all four Grand Slams, with his previous three ending with a first-round exit.
"I don't want to celebrate a lot after the first, or the second round, so you can see that I'm calm after winning the match. It's not a semifinal or the final, so I don't want to go too crazy after it. I mean we should look for more," Zhang added.
WANG XINYU TO FACE WORLD NO.1 IGA SWIATEK
China's Wang Xinyu triumphed over Rebecca Peterson of Sweden in straight sets 7-6(5), 6-2 on Thursday, reaching the third round in Roland Garros for the first time in her career.
The 21-year-old Wang, the world No. 80, persevered in a grueling one-and-a-half-hour first set, during which she squandered four set points at 5-3 and another at 5-4, saved three from her opponent at 6-5, before finally winning the tiebreak at 7-5.
"The time seemed to stop during that game (12th game in the first), so much back and forth when I was receiving," said Wang, who came to Roland Garros after losing all her previous four first-round matches on clay.
Peterson, whose best French Open performance was a second-round finish, committed nine double faults during the match, including two critical ones in the 12th game of the first set when she led 6-5, ultimately surrendering the game to Wang.
"I knew she might also be under immense pressure since I was trying to disrupt her by changing my stance while receiving her serve," Wang noted. She was commanding in the tiebreak, surging to a 3-0 lead before securing the set point at 6-5 to take the set.
"I maintained patience in the match, even in the first set when I trailed. I just told myself that I could do it, then it happened," said Wang, who had reached the second round at the Australian Open twice but had never won a singles main draw match at other Grand Slams before this Paris tournament.
The second set turned out to be one-sided as Wang won three consecutive games to seal the victory. Next up for Wang is world No.1 Swiatek, who turned 22 on Wednesday and defeated Claire Liu to secure her berth in the round of 32.
"We are the same age, and we used to meet each other in many junior competitions," said Wang, who faced the Polish player five years ago in the girls' semifinal at Wimbledon, a match the Chinese lost 7-5, 7-6(1).
"That was a good match, we both played very well. Now she is one of the top players, I'm really looking forward to playing against her on Saturday," Wang said about her upcoming match.