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China’s Zhang Zhizhen makes history with first-ever ATP doubles title

ISLAMABAD (PEN) : China has long yearned for a male tennis icon who could come close to the achievements of the legendary Li Na, a two-time Grand Slam champion, and the emerging star Zheng Qinwen, who captured the global attention with her impressive performance in this year’s Australian Open final. Zhang Zhizhen, under the watchful gaze of the tennis world, finally tasted the success that his more celebrated female compatriots have experienced.

Zhang’s breakthrough came at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, where he teamed up with Czech player Tomas Machac to clinch the men’s doubles title on Sunday. This significant accomplishment marked a historic moment for Chinese tennis, as Zhang became the first male singles player from the Chinese mainland to win an ATP doubles title.

In a one-sided final showdown that spanned just over an hour, Zhang and Machac showcased their exceptional collaboration by fending off all six break points they encountered. With remarkable dominance, they sailed past the Finnish duo of Patrik Niklas-Salminen and Emil Ruusuvuori, securing a convincing 6-3, 6-4 triumph.

Zhang Zhizhen (L) and Tomas Machac react after winning the men's doubles final at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France, February 11, 2024. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen (L) and Tomas Machac react after winning the men’s doubles final at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France, February 11, 2024. /CFP

Since joining forces, Zhang and Machac have swiftly made waves on the doubles events, leaving a trail of brilliance in their wake. Their stellar performance at Melbourne Park last month, where they reached the semifinals in their debut as a team, served as a testament to their undeniable talent and potential.

The triumph serves as the crowning achievement in a truly sensational few seasons for Zhang, whose journey has been adorned with a breathtaking array of “firsts.” It all began with his historic victory as the first men’s singles player from the Chinese mainland to triumph at the revered French Open. Fueled by this milestone, Zhang continued to carve his legacy by becoming the pioneer male player from the Chinese mainland to earn a coveted place in the main draw of Wimbledon during the Open era.

Unyielding in his pursuit of greatness, Zhang shattered more barriers by becoming the first representative from the Chinese mainland to reach the fourth round of a Masters 1000 event and ascend into the top 50 rankings. Adding to his marvelous list of accomplishments, he blazed a trail by capturing the gold medal as the first male singles winner from the Chinese mainland at the Asian Games in 29 years.

Zhang Zhizhen (R) and Tomas Machac pose after winning the men's doubles final at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France, February 11, 2024. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen (R) and Tomas Machac pose after winning the men’s doubles final at the Open 13 Provence in Marseille, France, February 11, 2024. /CFP

Although Zhang and Machac achieved early success in their budding partnership, Zhang made it clear that he would not divert his main focus to doubles competition and would continue to prioritize his singles matches.

When asked about the possibility of pursuing both singles and doubles simultaneously, Zhang openly acknowledged, “It will depend on the physical condition of both myself and my partner. Our main focus is on singles, and doubles is simply an additional venture.”