China men's tennis No. 1 Zhang Ze eyes top 100
HALLE, Germany (AFP) –
With Li Na having already captured a Grand Slam title, China is now desperate for its men to storm world tennis if only they can break a frustrating bureaucratic gridlock and raise expectations.
“In China, the most important thing is results in the Olympic Games or events in Asia,” said Guillaume Peyre, the French coach of China’s number one men’s player Zhang Ze.
“What’s more, there isn’t a star like Li Na, so we depend on the federation, that is to say the government.”
Peyre’s job is to try and steer Zhang into the top 100 from his current modest ranking of 227.
Zhang, 21, showed flashes of his ability this week when he came through qualifying before bowing out in the second round in straight sets to highly-rated Canadian Milos Raonic 6-1, 6-1.
“The Chinese system is not adapted to tennis which is an individual sport with individual plans,” added the 38-year-old coach, who has also worked with the likes of Marcos Baghdatis and Richard Gasquet in his career.
His first duty in China was to work with Peng Shuai, China’s second ranked woman player.
Peyre admits the facilities in China are superb, but the problems arise trying to reach them in the first place.
He claims that it can be hard to find training partners of a high level and to have reliable and consistent medical treatment.
“You can’t get an MRI scan when you want,” said the Frenchman.
“Also, sometimes, it can take two or three months to get a visa. There is no flexibility, the slightest change to a programme already established becomes a problem.
Zhang, who is nicknamed ‘Big George’, stands at 1.88m and has targetted a place in the world top 100; in the last year, he has climbed more than 200 places up the rankings.
“He has the potential, but he needs to make a lot of progress in his technique and especially in tactics,” said Peyre.
Next up for Zhang is the qualifying rounds of Wimbledon next week where he will look to improve on his second round exit in qualifying at the French Open last month.
“A player in the top 100, that could be the trigger,” said Peyre, who believes China are even capable of reaching the Davis Cup World Group.
“Everyone would then want to follow him. If we get two or three in two to three years, then why not the World Group.”