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Zhang Zhizhen to face Novak Djokovic at 2024 United Cup

CGTN| Updated: December 28, 2023 L M S


Zhang Zhizhen of China competes in the men's singles match against Aslan Karatsev of Russia (not in picture) at the Japan Open in Tokyo, October 19, 2023. /CFP

China will make their debut at the United Cup, an international outdoor hard court mixed-gender team tennis tournament, in Perth and Sydney, Australia, from December 29 to January 7, 2024.

A total of 18 teams will compete in six teams at the second edition of the United Cup. China are in Group E with the Czech Republic and Serbia. The leader of each group plus the second-best performing No. 2 teams of each competition zone will enter the quarterfinals.

Two rising stars, Zhang Zhizhen and Zheng Qinwen, will compete in the tournament for China. Both have achieved breakthroughs in the singles events in the past two years. Zhang set his best record at the U.S. Open, which also happens on hard court, this year by reaching the third round. He defeated J. J. Wolf of the U.S. and the No. 5 seed Casper Ruud of Norway. He also won the men's singles gold medal at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province.

Zheng made the women's singles quarters at the U.S. Open for the first time after beating Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, Kaia Kanepi of Estonia, Lucia Bronzetti of Italy and the 2022 runner-up Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. Zheng also won her first and second Women's Tennis Association (WTA) titles at the Palermo Ladies Open and the Zhengzhou Open.

China will play the Czech Republic first at the United Cup on Saturday. Zhang will face 22-year-old Jiri Lehecka who only became a professional player three years ago. Zheng will play against Marketa Vondrousova, who won the women's singles title at the Wimbledon Championships this year.

In China's second match against Serbia on Sunday, Zhang will play the 24-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic for the first time in his career, in both the men's singles and the mixed doubles matches. Zheng will be his partner for the latter.

"I was shocked when I heard that we will play Serbia," Zheng said. "I have never faced Djokovic before. Nor have I focused on the doubles match. The mixed doubles match is very important at the United Cup. I need to work hard with Zhang. It will be very interesting to face the world's No. 1 male player in the mixed doubles contest."

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