Shang qualifies for second straight Slam

Teenager joins Zhang, Wu as first Chinese trio to compete in men's RG main draw

Jerry Shang, Roland-Garros 2023 qualifying, final round©Remy Chautard/FFT
 - Dan Imhoff

Jerry Shang considers the two men flying the flag ahead of him “like brothers”, inspirations putting Chinese men’s tennis on the map.

It is high praise indeed for the 23-year-old Wu Yibing and 26-year-old Zhang Zhizhen, China’s first two to crack the ATP’s top 100.

After qualifying for his second straight major on Thursday, Shang joined his compatriots as the first men from their nation in the Open Era to secure a Roland-Garros berth.

The 18-year-old had better become accustomed to hearing such firsts.

Only four months ago, he became the first Chinese man to win a round at the Australian Open in the Open Era, going one better than his two tour brothers.

“I hope I can do the same again; that was very exciting and I’m very happy about that result,” he said ahead of his final-round 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 qualifying triumph over 259th-ranked Renzo Olivo.

“The last few months have been tough for me, winning some matches in Australia, then I got pretty sick after that and didn't play many tournaments.”

Following his two-hour, 10-minute victory on Thursday, the teenager said a previous tip to Roland-Garros as a junior had taken the edge off those final-round qualifying nerves.

Juncheng Shang, 3 tour, qualifications, Roland-Garros 2023©Rémy Chautard / FFT

“My first junior Grand Slam was actually here in Paris,” he said. “I was very nervous, played three matches and I had chances but that I took as a big experience.

“Also playing Wimbledon and US Open juniors. That really helped me being here before. I know the courts, I know the crowds.”

In his previous round, Shang scored his second Grand Slam qualifying win from as many meetings with man of the moment, Fabian Marozsan.

The Hungarian only 10 days ago had swept incoming world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz to reach the round of 16 in Rome.

“Before playing I was confident because we played earlier this year in Australian Open (qualifying) and I know what he can do,” Shang said. “Last week he beat one of the best players on tour right now, maybe the first right now, so I just had to play my tennis and not think about the other guy.”

Juncheng Shang, 2e tour, qualifications, Roland-Garros 2023©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

The Argentine Olivo brought experience to their Court 6 clash, having taken out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the opening round on Court Philippe-Chatrier six years ago.

He had contested only the subsequent Wimbledon main draw at Grand Slam level and had come up short in 14 qualifying attempts since.

“He's a very experienced player, I think 31 years old. He's played probably longer tennis than I've lived, so he knows what to do in the important moments,” Shang said. “He's a very annoying player for me. He's got that forehand to my backhand, very high and it's effective, so I just kept staying patient.

“Always I try to stay optimistic on all the shots. I think I can do better here, I can do better on the next shot but my coach always told me, take the positive, don't think you can always do better all the time, or how bad you're doing right now so that's really helped me.”

Lucas Pouille, 3e tour, qualifications, Roland-Garros 2023©Cédric Lecocq / FFT

In the final qualifying match of the day, French favourite Lucas Pouille worked the crowd on a packed Court 14 as he rallied from a set down to defeat Austrian Juri Rodionov 1-6, 7-5, 6-0.

The 29-year-old former world No.10 had endured a tough time of it since reaching the Australian Open semi-finals in 2019, open about his form struggles, injuries and depression.

His victory booked a 10th main draw start in his home major, where his best results were back-to-back third-round showings in 2017 and 2018.