China's tennis ace Zhang Zhizhen looks like he will make more history in his hometown Shanghai as he eyes to progress to the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters. If he succeeds, he will become the first Chinese player to reach the stage in the history of the ATP Masters event.
Currently in the last 16 at the hard-court tournament, the 26-year-old will aim to continue his historic run when he plays 16th seed Hubert Hurkacz.
"This is the second time I've been in the second week of the Masters. I'm quite happy," Zhang told media.
"I always wanted to play tennis well in my hometown and in front of my family, and finally this time I did. Hopefully, I can keep going."
Zhang played against Hurkacz at the 2019 event, but was seen off by the Polish player 2-0.
"I still remember that match. I had the opportunity to win the first set, but I didn't grasp it," Zhang said.
"Four years have passed; we are both improving. It's going to be a tough match," he said of his upcoming match against Hurkacz.
To prepare for the match, Zhang skipped his doubles match with his pair Jannik Sinner of Italy against Rajeev Ram of the US and Joe Salisbury of the UK on Monday.
"Our doubles match has been canceled, but of course we both will focus more on the singles, because singles are more important," Zhang said.
"Sinner had a very good performance in China. For me, I've also played a lot of matches in China so far, so both of us think that we need to focus more on singles."
Zhang was referring to the Asian Games matches he played. Ahead of the Shanghai Masters, he won the men's singles gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, bagging China's first gold medal in 29 years in the discipline.
He said the victory at the Asian Games has boosted his confidence.
"I am more confident after winning, though the Asian Games were not that intense. But it's still a gold medal, so that definitely boosted myself confidence. It also gives me more confidence in facing difficulties that I might encounter this week."
Zhang became the first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-finalist from China in May at the Madrid Masters and rose to No.52 in the ATP rankings in July after making it into the last 32 in the French Open, the highest position ever held by anyone from the East Asian country.
He beat Casper Ruud of Norway at the US Open to become the first Chinese man to beat a top-five opponent.
Zhang also unveiled his little habits when competing.
"I go to the same place to eat, and then I drink coconut water every day. I think many people have small things that we are obsessed with, especially when we are winning," he said.