Chinese aces hold court

 ,New breed and veteran Zhang Shuai combine to collect five titles in highly promising signs for future,Collecting five titles in 24 hours, Chinese aces took the tennis world by storm over the weekend, with the youthful surge raising hopes for the emergence of a new golden generation.,Led by teen star Zheng Qinwen on the women’s tour and former US Open boys’ champion Wu Yibing on the men’s circuit, China’s current crop are evoking memories from around a decade ago when the so-called “Golden Flowers” blossomed on the international stage.,After making global headlines for her breakout performances at the French Open, Zheng, a 19-year-old power hitter, proved her Paris exploits were no one-off on Sunday, defeating compatriot Wang Xiyu 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in the final of the clay-court BBVA Open. The teenager’s victory at the entry-level WTA 125 tournament in Valencia, Spain, was her first singles title on the tour.,Zheng has now won nine straight finals, following her eight titles on the ITF circuit, helping her climb to world No 46 and overtake veteran Zhang Shuai as China’s top women’s player.,Wang’s runner-up finish in Spain was also the best result of the 21-year-old’s career, helping her crack the top 100 for the first time.,About an hour later, Zhang added a second WTA crown for China, teaming up with Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia to beat Monica Niculescu of Romania and American Caroline Dolehide in the doubles final of the grass-court Nottingham Open in England.,Including singles, the triumph was Zhang’s 15th pro title-testament to the 33-year-old’s competitiveness across two generations. Zhang first emerged on the international stage in 2010, around the same time that retired Grand Slam champions Li Na, Zheng Jie and Yan Zi started to make waves on the pro circuit to collectively be dubbed the “Golden Flowers”.,Also enjoying a singles quarterfinal run in Nottingham, Zhang remains a force to be reckoned with among the elite ranks, where the post-2000s generation led by Zheng and Wang are now also making their presence felt.,”It’s really exciting to be back here and win a championship where I have so many wonderful memories,” said Zhang, who reached the singles final in Nottingham last year when she was beaten by Britain’s Johanna Konta.,”I’ve overcome a lot of ups and downs since I was here last year, which makes this title extra special. I am really happy I played well at my favorite tournament on grass and hopefully I can maintain this momentum to play better in the future,” said Zhang, who reached a career-high singles world ranking of No 23 in November 2016.,Rekindling hope,Adding to the women’s celebrations on Sunday was the return of 2017 US Open boys’ champion Wu Yibing, who won his second title on the ATP’s second-tier Challenger Tour in Orlando, Florida. The triumph came almost five years after his Challenger crown in Shanghai following his junior breakout in New York.,Wu, a 22-year-old native of Zhejiang province, ended a 31-month title drought for Chinese men on the tour after his Australian opponent, Jason Kubler, had to retire due to stomach issues while trailing Wu 6-7(5), 6-4, 3-1 in the final.,The last time a Chinese man won a Challenger Tour title was in November 2019 when China’s current top men’s player Zhang Zhizhen triumphed at a Shenzhen tournament.,Wu overcame four opponents ranked around the top 150 in Orlando, indicating he is putting years of injury troubles behind him, and capping an impressive run over the past six months that has seen him move up over 700 places to reach No 332 in the rankings.,Once dubbed “Wonder Boy” for earning Chinese men’s tennis its first major junior title in 2017, Wu’s progress was stunted by elbow and lower-back injuries after switching to the adult ranks. A combination of surgeries and rehab programs consumed almost two years of his career until the COVID-19 pandemic struck at the end of 2019 to derail his comeback attempt.,Now healthy and fresh again, Wu has found it’s not too late to fulfill his potential as he pledges to rebuild his confidence and winning form.,”Following the ray of light that originated from myself,” Wu wrote on his Weibo account after winning in Orlando.,Also on Sunday in Thailand, another young Chinese man, Buyunchaokete, claimed his fourth singles title this year from an entry-level ITF event at Chiang Rai, beating Japan’s Shintaro Imai in straight sets.,With an impressive 33-11 win-loss record this season on the ITF circuit, the 20-year-old from China’s Mongolian ethnic group is part of a promising crop of male Chinese players that also includes Wu and former boys’ world No 1 Shang Juncheng, 17.,At the same event in Thailand, Gao Xinyu defeated Japan’s Nao Hibino 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in the women’s final to complete a Chinese double on the ITF Tour.,sunxiaochen@chinadaily.com.cn