Federer has boosted my confidence: Ze Zhang
He didn't have to break a sweat during the 97 minutes he spent on centre court. Sure, he was playing a former top-60 player, someone who is trying to claw his way back again.
But, the confidence with which the youngster closed out the match against Swiss Marco Chiudinelli – a clean ace down the middle – showed how much Ze Zhang has improved since last October. And he just might have 'good friend' Roger Federer to thank for it!
The 17-time Grand Slam champion called the world No 229 a few weeks before the Shanghai Masters last year and asked if they could play doubles together. "I was surprised and excited," recalled the Chinese, after booking a quarterfinal berth against Somdev Devvarman in the ongoing ONGC-GAIL Delhi Open on Wednesday.
When Team FeZerer, the wildcard entrants at Shanghai, took only 48 minutes to progress to the second round, the Swiss great managed to do a season's first – win a doubles match. "It was great to partner Roger. I learnt a lot," explained Zheng in broken English, his face lighting up.
"I learnt volley techniques while he also helped me on my returns. The one thing Roger helped me most with is confidence. I am a lot more confident now."
So does he still keep in touch with the former world No 1? "He called and spoke to all the Chinese national team members," he said.
The 23-year-old, who started playing at age six, chose tennis over dancing when he was 16. In his short career, he's reached 148 in rankings, become the first male player from China to enter Grand Slams and had a memorable victory over Richard Gasquet, a former world No 7. This year at the Australian Open, Zheng managed to take a set off Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the first round.
Against Somdev, whom he had lost to in the Guangzhou Asian Games, Zheng is confident of putting up a good show. He's hoping Federer's words inspire him to go all the way at the DLTA Complex and help him lift his first ATP Challenger event.
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