China's top-ranked tennis player Zheng Qinwen secured her spot in the Australian Open final on Jan. 25, becoming the first Chinese player in a decade to reach a Grand Slam final.
Historic milestone: Zheng booked her spot in the final with a convincing straight-set victory over Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska. The win mirrors the path of her idol, Li Na, who made history in 2014 by becoming the first Chinese player to win a Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open.
Growth of a little seed: Zheng grew up watching Li and now aims to replicate her hero’s success when she faces the defending champion and current world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) on Jan. 27.
"She put a little seed in my heart that I also wanted to do that and to be like her... and even better," Zheng told the Tennis Channel last year.
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The rise of a star: The 21-year-old, who is set to break into the WTA world top 10 next week, is now being primed to carry on the legacy of the Chinese tennis legend. Insiders have been anticipating Zeng’s rise since last season when she worked with esteemed coach Wim Fissette and later reunited with Spanish coach Parc Reberre. Reberre co-coached Coco Gauff to her US Open win in 2023.
Facing the challenge: Zheng is aware of the challenge of facing Sabalenka, who is currently on a 13-game winning streak. While Zheng acknowledges Sabalenka's reputation as one of the tour's hardest hitters, she draws confidence from the advice Li gave her: "Don't think too much, just go for it."
Big sister support: A wholesome moment captured on film shows Li sneaking up on Zheng during an interview at the tournament. Catching her completely off guard, Zheng exclaims, "Wow, Li Na! Big sister!"
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Li and other Chinese luminaries are expected to cheer for Zheng from the stands on Saturday.
Trending on NextShark: Inspired by tennis legend Li Na, China's Zheng Qinwen reaches first Grand Slam final
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