Wimbledon 2024: Get to know surprise quarter-finalist Lulu Sun

Lefty Kiwi boasts aggressive game and multicultural background

Lulu Sun / Huitièmes de finale Wimbledon 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

A historic and fairytale fortnight for Lulu Sun continues at Wimbledon as she gets set to take on Croatia’s Donna Vekic in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.

Here are a few things to know about the 23-year-old left-handed Kiwi.

She had never won a Grand Slam match until this Wimbledon

When Sun arrived to south-west London two weeks ago, she was ranked 123 in the world, had only contested just one Grand Slam main draw (at the 2024 Australian Open), and had never won a main draw match at a major.

On the grass courts of Roehampton, where Wimbledon qualifying rounds are played, she won three matches to secure her place at the All England Club for the first time, and was drawn against No.8 seed Zheng Qinwen in the first round.

She defeated the 2024 Australian Open finalist in three sets, to record the first top-100, top-50, and top-10, win of her career before marching her way to the quarter-finals.  

“It’s definitely a special win, playing here at Wimbledon and getting my first top-100 win,” Sun said on court after upsetting Zheng. “The qualies are definitely gruelling, each match, it definitely helped with the fighting spirit.”

She’s a citizen of the world

Sun was born in Te Anau, New Zealand to a Chinese mother and Croatian father.

She described her birth place as a very small town with “practically more sheep and deer than people”.

Sun then moved to Shanghai with her mother, before relocating to Switzerland at the age of five. She studied and played college tennis at the University of Texas in Austin, and splits her time now between her two tennis bases in Slovakia – the home country of her coach Vladimir Platenik – and Miami.

She speaks English, Mandarin, and French and says she is currently learning Korean, which she believes will help her move on to Japanese next.

“I love languages even though it's sometimes annoying and complicated and frustrating, but it definitely – when you learn languages, it helps to learn the culture as well of the people of such languages,” she told reporters at Wimbledon.

Having such a multicultural background has understandably made Sun feel like she doesn’t fit 100 percent in one box, but it has also allowed her to inherit and absorb different traits from different sources.

“Chinese obviously from my mom's side, is very disciplined, hard-working. From my dad's side, Croatian, he's from the seaside, so very laid back and calm. I guess that's a good combo,” she said after her third-round victory over Zhu Lin.

“Also, I think from my mom's side I get that feistiness and competitiveness. And then Swiss side is, like, neutral,” she added with a laugh.

“Then from New Zealand I get that adventure side come out of me. I'm really happy to be able to have so many cultures and backgrounds with me even though sometimes I'm not 100 percent in each one. It's impossible to be. I'm really grateful to be able to at least have some of it.”

From staring down match point in qualies to a historic quarter-final

In the second round of her Wimbledon qualifying journey, Sun blew a 5-1 lead in the final set against Gabriela Knutson and faced match point at 5-6 before she clinched the victory in a deciding tiebreak.

In the main draw, she hit one new milestone after the other, making history for New Zealand tennis every step of the way.

Her fourth-round victory over Emma Raducanu on Sunday made Sun the first woman representing New Zealand to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

“I don't think it's surprising. At the same time, I wasn't thinking, ‘Oh, I'm going to be in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon’,” said Sun.

“I honestly was just like, Okay, first match. I got through it. I was like, Okay, next match. After I passed qualies, I was super delighted because the last qualies I played at Wimbledon, I lost in the final round in three sets. I was super disappointed. When you're so close to qualifying, it kind of hurts your heart. So just getting to the main draw was a big step already.

“Playing all these players up until now, it's just opportunity, a new opportunity each time. I'm super grateful to be able to play another match here.”

Aggression is the name of her game

More than a fifth of the points Sun has won at Wimbledon through four rounds have been winners (22%).

Her tally of 162 winners is the highest struck by any woman this fortnight, and means she is averaging 40.5 winners per match!

She has enjoyed an 81 percent success rate at the net and has won 12/16 of the serve-and-volley points she has played.

Lulu Sun / Huitièmes de finale Wimbledon 2024©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

She switched allegiance from Switzerland to New Zealand this year

Sun represented Switzerland in tennis up until March this season, when she chose to fly the New Zealand flag.

She admits it was a difficult decision but one she is pleased to have made.

“Representing New Zealand is more than a professional choice; it is a tribute to my roots, a celebration of my origin, and a commitment to the country that has always been a fundamental part of who I am and who I want to become,” Sun was quoted as saying by itftennis.com.

According to the WTA, Sun’s experience playing in Auckland in January this year, where she received lots of love and support, played a key factor in her decision to switch nationalities.

She helped the Longhorns win a national championship

Sun played one year of college tennis at University of Texas in the 2020-2021 season, and helped the team win the NCAA title over Pepperdine.

She fittingly majored in international relations and global studies at university before turning pro in 2022.

More big things up ahead for her

She’s already having a dream summer but there’s more to it yet!

Sun will be making her Olympic debut in Paris later this month, playing alongside doubles world No.3 Erin Routliffe.

The pair have a legitimate shot at a medal given Routliffe’s recent success on the doubles court that saw her lift the US Open crown last year with Gabriela Dabrowski. The Canadian/Kiwi duo also reached the Australian Open semi-finals early this season.