Shang makes his move

 - Alix Ramsay

China’s history boy crushes the man who beat Alcaraz and moves closer to the main draw.

Jerry Shang, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying second round© Nicolas Gouhier/FFT

There is an old song from the 1920s: “I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales”. And in a round about sort of way, that brings us to Jerry Shang (not that he has any connection to British royalty, as far as we are aware). But bear with us.

On Wednesday, Shang beat Fabian Marozsan. Who is Marozsan? He is the man who beat Carlos Alcaraz in Rome, a result that sent if not actual shock waves, then at least ripples of concern around the men’s tour. The then world No.106 beating the then world No.2? Surely not. But he did. And then yesterday Shang flattened Marozsan 6-3, 6-3.

But our hero from Beijing is not unused to making a name for himself at the Grand Slams, though. In January he qualified for his first ever major championship at the Australian Open and went on to beat Oscar Otte in the first round. He was the first man from China ever to win a Grand Slam match.

Not that anyone should be surprised by the rise and rise of Shang. In the autumn of 2021, he did not have a ranking point to his name and yet just 12 months later, he had cracked the world’s 200.

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

Coming from an athletic family – his father Yi was a footballer and his mother, Na, was a world champion table tennis player – he was always destined to be a sportsman and his parents introduced him to tennis when he was five years old. He moved to the United States to train aged 12 and by the time he was 16, he was the top-ranked junior in the world.

What set him apart from the other young hopefuls was his brain – he was not particularly tall or powerful but he always made the right decisions on court. He is bigger and stronger now but still it is his ability to think clearly in the heat of battle that gives him his edge.

On Thursday, Renzo Olivo is all that stands between Shang and the main draw. Aged 31 and ranked No.239, Olivo has played exclusively on the Challenger circuit for the past five years. In theory, then, 18-year-old Shang is the favourite.

Renzo Olivo, 1er tour, qualifications, Roland-Garros 2023 ©Julien Crosnier / FFT

Three to watch

Court 6: Dominic Stricker (SUI) v Thiago Agustin Tirante (ARG)

If you are looking for a bit of advice, it is always best to listen to the best in the business – and Stricker has done that many, many times over the past few years. Practising with his compatriot, Roger Federer, he was told by the great man what he needed to do better.

“He told me some tips like to work on my serve," said the 2020 Roland-Garros junior champion. "That was something he told me many times and now I’d say that my serve is pretty good."

The rest of his game is none too shabby, either (he has yet to drop a set) and has brought him two Challenger titles already this year.

Dominic Stricker, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying first round © Philippe Montigny/FFT

Court 14: Elizabeth Mandlik (USA) v Laura Pigossi (BRA)

Whisper this if you dare, but Mandlik's greatest ambition is not to win here but to win Wimbledon. It is the only Grand Slam her mother, Hana Mandlikova, never won so she wants that one for herself one day. This week, though, her every waking moment is devoted to trying to get into the Roland-Garros main draw.

She is not the tallest of players so she relies on her speed and aggression to get the job done. “I try to take the ball early and always just try to step in and make the girl feel rushed,” she explained. “I'm fast, but I'm not big, So I have to do something a little bit extra.”

Elizabeth Mandlik 2e tour qualifications Roland-Garros 2023©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

Court 3: Radu Albot (MDA) v Camilo Ugo Carabelli (ARG)

This time last year, the man his friends call “Brujo” (it means “wizard”) waltzed through the qualifying tournament here without dropping a set. That was fairly magical for the Argentinian and once into the main draw, Carabelli then edged past Aslan Karatsev in five sets – it was a quite a Roland-Garros debut.

To repeat that feat, Carabelli must find a way past the experienced Albot. At 33, Albot knows his way around these courts – this is his 10th trip to Paris with six main draw appearances on his CV and three first round wins.

Camilo Ugo Carabelli, Roland-Garros 2023, qualifying second round© Clément Mahoudeau/FFT