Sitting in the media interview room of the French Open, less than 10 meters apart, they can see each other but cannot communicate directly. They can only use electronic devices and use video chat to conduct conversations. Zhang Shuai told reporters that this is his first. Accepted such a special interview.
In the year when the new crown epidemic is raging, Zhang Shuai has experienced many "firsts" like this-the sudden suspension of the season, the inability to train due to isolation, the empty games after the restart, and so on. Los-the first time he reached the top 16 singles on the clay court he was not good at.
In an exclusive interview with a reporter from Xinhua News Agency, Zhang Shuai once again mentioned the one word she said the most during this French Open-happiness.
"I have never been so excited. For me, walking to the stadium is a kind of enjoyment." She said.
Zhang Shuai Pictures in this article Visual China
In mid-March, the Men’s Professional Tennis Association (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) jointly issued a statement that the season was suspended.
At that time, Zhang Shuai had just returned from abroad and was under quarantine. Her first feeling is that this season may be gone.
"Although some games are still saying that they will be held as scheduled or postponed. But seeing the situation of the epidemic situation in various countries continues to worsen, it feels like it will blow this year at that time." Zhang Shuai said.
Throughout March, Zhang Shuai was isolated for 28 days. She laughed and said that since the first day of practice as a child, she had never rested for so long. But for professional athletes, it is not a good thing to be completely out of training for such a long time.
"Because when I go back to the court, my body functions are completely unable to adapt. Everything has to start again."
Although it is not certain whether the event can be restarted, the only thing you can do as an athlete is to be ready for everything.
After the quarantine was lifted, Zhang Shuai spent three months in closed training with the national team in Tianjin. Looking back now, although the time was hard and boring, it also benefited her a lot.
In August, tennis tournaments resumed one after another, and the US Open, which was under great pressure, still insisted on holding it. This also gave Zhang Shuai the hope of returning to the game. Although many players chose to abandon the US Open out of fears about the epidemic, she still chose to give it a try.
Zhang Shuai lost to Kvitova and missed the quarterfinals of the French Open.
0 wins and 6 losses. This is the report card that Zhang Shuai handed over in the first three races after the season resumed. It was so bad that she began to doubt herself.
The first game to come to the United States was the Southwest Foundation Tennis Tournament. But the results were disappointing. Zhang Shuai lost in the first round in both singles and doubles matches. At this time, she would also comfort herself that she was in poor condition because of jet lag.
However, in the subsequent US Open, facing the Belgian player Bonaventure, who is ranked 100th in the world in the first round, Zhang Shuai lost two sets and was eliminated after winning one set first. The first round of doubles the next day was also eliminated. . During that time, Zhang Shuai's mood fell to the bottom.
To make matters worse, due to the late Schengen visa, she may miss the next European clay court season.
During the nearly two weeks waiting in New York, the only thing Zhang Shuai could do was to run between the court and the hotel at two o'clock on the line-go to the gym in the morning and practice on the court in the afternoon. Without clay court conditions, he would take the US Open. Practice on the hard court first. As long as there is a glimmer of hope, she wants to wait.
Finally, with the assistance of the WTA, the French Tennis Association, and the French Open tournament organizing committee, Zhang Shuai got his visa at the last moment. On the afternoon of receiving her passport, she flew to Europe.
At the first stop in Rome, Zhang Shuai needs to be quarantined for 24 hours in accordance with local epidemic prevention and control requirements. Due to time constraints, after the end of the quarantine, she ushered in her first game after only an hour of training on the clay court-another defeat. In the doubles three days later, she was eliminated again.
Zhang Shuai returned the ball in the game.
From the United States to Europe, only Zhang Shuai's mother and coach Liu Shuo have been with him. During the most depressed time after losing the losing streak, family encouragement played an important role in rebuilding Zhang Shuai's confidence and regaining his state.
"Coach Liu told me that many American and European players have been playing games during this period. Although they are not at the WTA level, whether it is an exhibition game or other forms of competition, it feels like it is there. But we have It’s been a long time since the competition, training and competition are still different. So he thinks I need time."
After experiencing the visa "turmoil", his mother also comforted Zhang Shuai that he was lucky enough to be able to catch up with the game, so don't be burdened behind and let go.
It settled down-it was Zhang Shuai's warning to himself.
The last warm-up match before the French Open was in Strasbourg. From the qualifying round, Zhang Shuai won a wave of three consecutive victories and successfully reached the quarterfinals. After many days, Zhang Shuai finally once again tasted the taste of victory on the court.
After coming to Paris, Zhang Shuai showed an unprecedented relaxed state. There is no complaint about the cold and rainy weather, but some just desire and enjoy the game. With the 12th seed Keith and two French local players, she broke through her best result in the French Open and reached the top 16.
"When I walked to the court for the first game, I told my mother and the coach, isn't this the venue where I played the exhibition match with Big Brother Jin Dong last year? I immediately felt very happy. I didn't expect to be able to play the French Open. , Walking on the road is a kind of enjoyment." Zhang Shuai said.
On the WTA calendar this season, there is only one race left in the Czech Republic. Zhang Shuai said that if it goes well, she still hopes to fight again.
"After all, I finally got out of some state. If I go back, I will be isolated again, and it will take a long time to recover."
(Originally titled: From six consecutive defeats to a breakthrough in the French Open in the season covered by the epidemic-an interview with China's "Golden Flower" Zhang Shuai)