China's Zheng Qinwen carries a quiet confidence about her and the 19-year-old has the game and results to back it up. In just her fourth WTA main draw appearance, Zheng advanced to her first WTA semifinal at the 2022 Melbourne Summer Set. Ranked No.126, Zheng defeated Jule Niemeier and Bernarda Pera to qualify for the main draw and then tallied victories over Mai Hontama, Vera Zvonareva, and Ana Konjuh to advance to the semifinals. She faces Simona Halep on Saturday.
Zheng was ranked No.630 when she won back-to-back ITF titles in August and September of 2020. By the end of 2021 she had risen to No.126, having won three ITF titles last year. In her WTA main draw debut at 2021 Palermo, Zheng scored her first tour-level victory over No.54 Liudmila Samsonova.
Get to know the Chinese teen, who now finds herself inching closer to a Top 100 debut.
She played multiple sports before settling on tennis at six years old.
Zheng's parents wanted to keep her active as a child and encouraged her to play sports. She started with table tennis but quickly looked for other options.
"I was fat as a kid and I would get sick often. So my parents told me to play sports and choose one. I tried badminton, I tried basketball, and I tried tennis.
"I chose tennis because I really liked the competition, especially the feeling of beating the opponent. Of course when you lose you feel so sad, you feel so down, you feel the world is broken for you. But the competition is what I love most about tennis."
She trains in Spain with a former ATP player.
Zheng is coached by Pere Riba Madrid and trains in Barcelona. She credits her improvement over the last year to footwork and tactics.
"I see the game more clear. A lot of people told me I'm hitting hard, but I just hit for power. My coach put a lot of strategy in my mind, being consistent, be solid, and if you want to hit hard ok but choose the right ball. He put a lot of knowledge in my head and that made me get better and helps me win these difficult matches."
19yo Zheng Qinwen on facing Halep in her 1st WTA SF: “When I was a junior my father would talk about her to me because she's quite a fighter.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 7, 2022
"I'm just going to do my best tomorrow. I believe I have the level to win. Just don't look at the player, that it's Simona." pic.twitter.com/cfPvnHVWZT
She's part of a trio of talented Chinese youngsters.
Along with No.101 Wang Xinyu and No.131 Wang Xiyu, both 20, Zheng rounds out China's next trio of potential stars. Left-handed Wang Xiyu was the 2018 US Open junior girls' champion, while right-handed Wang Xinyu was the first of the three to break the Top 100, topping out at No.99.
Her idol is Roger Federer and she's too scared to talk to Rafael Nadal.
Zheng cites the ATP's Big Three as her idols, singling out Roger Federer as her inspiration.
"He's so classic on court and even now I still watch his videos when he's playing. Of course, Djokovic and Nadal are amazing. I try to learn from them."
Asked whether she has met Nadal, who is playing this week in Melbourne, Zheng said she's waiting until her ranking improves.
"I saw one practice of him and wow, he's amazing. I don't have the courage to ask for a picture. I don't want to disturb him. I really want the signature and the picture but maybe when I get better."
She wants to finish the year in the Top 30.
With her run to the Melbourne semifinals, Zheng is inching closer to her Top 100 debut. But the confident teen is shooting for the Top 30.
"I know it's quite difficult but I believe that my level is there. At the moment I have to get through match by match, point by point. I think I have the level to be there."