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Rising star Shang chasing history in Australian Open debut

  • Leigh Rogers

Shang Juncheng is proudly making history at Australian Open 2023.

The 17-year-old is the youngest player in this year’s men’s singles draw and among a record three Chinese contenders in the field. 

“It is my first time in Australia and I’m just very excited to be here,” said the world No.194.

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Shang, whose father, Yi, played professional football and his mother, Na, was a world champion in table tennis, successfully navigated his way through qualifying. 

He scored wins against three higher-ranked opponents last week at Melbourne Park, including a second-round victory against Spanish veteran Fernando Verdasco, a former world No.7 and Australian Open 2009 semifinalist.

“I’ve given 100 per cent and I think I’ve done very well controlling my emotions after each round,” Shang said. 

“It is my first time playing a Grand Slam and I’m just super excited about what is coming next.”

Shang, who has been living and training in America since he was 13, joins compatriots Zhang Zhizhen and Wu Yibing in the main draw. 

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It is the first time in the Open era that three Chinese men have contested a Grand Slam main draw, continuing the nation’s stunning rise in men’s tennis in the past year.

The 26-year-old Zhang became the first Chinese man to break into the world’s top 100 in singles in October, while 23-year-old Wu created his own history at last year’s US Open when he became the first Chinese man in 63 years to win a Grand Slam singles main-draw match.

Wu, who had earlier in his career become the first Chinese male to win a Grand Slam title in the US Open 2017 boys’ singles competition, went onto reach the third round in New York.

“Those two guys, they are definitely my inspiration,” Shang acknowledged of their influence. 

“They’ve been on tour longer than me and are way more experienced than me. I hope I can get to watch them in the main draw.”

World No.97 Zhang has drawn American Ben Shelton in his Australian Open debut, while No.116-ranked wildcard Wu plays France’s Corentin Moutet in the opening round.

But for now, Shang’s immediate focus is on his own first-round clash with world No.74 Oscar Otte. His showdown with the 29-year-old German is his first career meeting against a top 100-ranked opponent.

“I’ll try my best to win,” said Shang, who has the chance to become the first Chinese player to win an Australian Open main-draw singles match in the Open era.