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Main draw win sends Shang Juncheng into record books

  • Gill Tan

Seventeen-year-old Shang Juncheng made history on Monday as the first Chinese man to win a main draw match at the Australian Open in the Open era.

In his Grand Slam debut, the left-handed qualifier delightedly punched the air after stunning world No.74 Oscar Otte 6-2 6-4 6-7(2) 7-5 in front of a packed crowd on Court 13.

MORE: All the scores from Day 1 at AO 2023

During the encounter, which lasted just under three hours, Shang smashed 53 winners past his German rival. In the opening set, he fended off the only two break points he faced.

Ranked 194, Shang - also known as Jerry - is the youngest man vying for the AO 2023 title and secured his place after notching up three wins in qualifying, including one over 2009 semifinalist Fernando Verdasco, a fellow southpaw.

The victory marked his first main draw ATP Tour win in four events.

“I think it’s quite a big accomplishment,” said Shang. “To do this, it’s very special for me.” The teen admitted he wasn’t expecting success so soon into his professional career.

“I'm a little surprised that I came this fast, but at the same time, I think it's all the hard work from my team and myself that paid off,” Shang said.

“It's one of the best moments I have had so far in my career… I'm just very excited to be on court, and everything is a learning process for me. I'm just super happy to be here.”

READ: Rising star Shang chasing history in Australian Open debut

The effort is reminiscent of Carlos Alcaraz’s breakthrough at Melbourne Park in 2021, when the Spaniard, then 17, won through qualifying to reach the second round.

“Looking up to Carlos, he's one of, I mean, he's the best player in the world right now,” said Shang.

“Just watching him play on the court really inspires me,” added the youngster, who – like most of his peers – said he spent his formative years watching the Big Three, namely Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

And what will the world’s most populous nation – home to Australian Open 2014 champion Li Na – make of his historymaking win?

“I think it's huge for Chinese men's tennis,” said Shang.

MORE: Australian Open 2023 men's singles draw

“We have had really good players from the women's side but not really big names in the men's… I'm very lucky that I'm part of this team. Hopefully we can do something big in the future.

“Those two other guys, they are like brothers to me,” he said, referring to Wu Yubing and Zhang Zizhen, who – with Shang – became the first male Chinese trio to participate in a Grand Slam men’s singles draw in the Open era, and the first in the entire Australian Open history.

Wu lost a tough five-setter to France’s Corentin Moutet in four hours and 14 minutes, which is – so far – the longest match of the tournament.

Shang has absorbed advice – especially around remaining positive – from tenured coach Dante Bottini, who has worked with Kei Nishikori and Grigor Dimitrov.

“I'm very lucky to have him on my side… his opinions mean a lot to me. We often talk about how to play the game,” he said.

DRAW: Australian Open 2023 women's singles draw

“We all agreed that everything is mental, that everybody can play good tennis, and just having the positive mindset on the big moments can change the whole game… those negative things will just tear you up.”

Also advancing on Monday were countrywoman and 29th seed Zheng Qinwen, who swept past Dalma Galfi 6-0 6-2. She's joined in the round of 64 by Wang Xinyu, who ousted Australian wildcard Storm Sanders 7-6(2) 6-4 and Zhu Lin, who defeated Rebecca Marino 6-2 6-4. Yue Yuan fell to sixth seed Maria Sakkari 6-1 6-4.