Zheng Qinwen addresses controversial topic after ousting Naomi Osaka in Rome

Zheng defeated Osaka, who is coached by Wim Fissette - the coach who left Zheng in September to start working with Osaka.

by Dzevad Mesic
Zheng Qinwen addresses controversial topic after ousting Naomi Osaka in Rome
© Getty Images Sport - Mike Hewitt

World No. 7 Zheng Qinwen shrugged off claims that she feared coach Wim Fissette knowing her would be Naomi Osaka's advantage as the Chinese tennis star says she is constantly developing her game and her only concern going into the match was playing her tennis. 

After splitting with Osaka in mid-2022 after two and a half years of working together, Fissette started working with Zheng at the start of the 2023 grass season. Early in their partnership, 21-year-old Zheng appeared to be making strides with Fissette as a coach and many thought it was a great collaboration. 

But then after the 2023 US Open, Zheng left everyone shocked when she announced that Fissette pretty much dumped her so he could return to working with Osaka. When sharing that, Zheng appeared pretty frustrated over the entire situation and she wasn't hiding that she was extremely disappointed in Fissette. 

On Monday in Rome, Osaka played against a top-10 player for the first time since launching her post-pregnancy comeback. And her opponent was Zheng, who handed her a 6-2 6-4 loss.

After the match, Zheng was asked if she feared there was something about her game that Fissette could share to Osaka and give her the edge. Answering the question, Zheng said that wasn't the case as her focus was on playing her game and being the one who would be better game and mentally-wise.

"Honestly, I don't really care 'cause I think the players, especially me as a player, I try to develop my game all the time. I'm always trying to find the room that I can improve. I feel once I stop to improve is where my tennis is going down," Zheng answered.

"They have their own game plan. I have my own game plan. So let's have a fight today and let's see who has a better feeling, better mentality, better game today.

"Like what I say before, today the match went in my way. I feel pretty good in my serve, my return, and all my groundstrokes. So, yeah, I'm pretty happy with the win today."

Zheng Qinwen
Zheng Qinwen© Getty Images Sport - Dan Istitene

Zheng on beating Osaka and the major respect for her: She has won many Slams

After breaking Osaka in the first game of the match, Zheng got broken back instantly in the following game. However, Zheng kept playing her game and winning the first set was never a doubt as the Chinese earned back-to-back breaks in the fifth and seventh game to still pretty easily win the opener.

At the start of the second set, Zheng broke Osaka in the first game of the set and then served her way to a two-set win over the four-time Grand Slam champion.

"Yeah, obviously today it's not easy to play against her because she has won many Grand Slams before and she's tough to beat. I just gave my everything on the court and I'm glad today the match went in my way," Zheng said.

For Zheng and Osaka, this was their second meeting. Previously, Osaka defeated Zheng 6-4 3-6 6-1 when they met in the San Jose first round in 2022 August. 

When asked if losing to Osaka two years ago had any impact on her going into their Rome match, Zheng simply underlined it was a completely different situation and she didn't think of their meeting that came nearly two years ago.

"Honestly, I just go clean today 'cause that match was long time ago. It was my first year in tour. There's nothing to compare to that match," Zheng explained.

'Cause also in that moment we are playing on hard court. The game was totally different, hard to clay... Today I just went clean, set up my game and went for it."

"I think doesn't matter who I play against, it's good for me. I think when you are in quarterfinal, every player are hungry. Especially me, I'm really excited to play my next match again," Zheng said.

Zheng Qinwen
Zheng Qinwen© Getty Images Sport - Dan Istitene

Zheng on playing Coco Gauff next

After beating Osaka, Zheng was waiting on the winner of the match between Gauff and Paula Badosa. After the opening set of the match, former world No. 2 Badosa was closer to winning the match but then third-seeded Gauff created a comeback to seal a 5-7 6-4 6-1 win and also set up a meeting versus Zheng.

For Zheng, 21, and 20-year-old Gauff, their Rome quarterfinal meeting will also be the first time that they will be playing against each other.

Zheng Qinwen
Zheng Qinwen© Getty Images Sport - Dan Istitene

"Both of them, I would say they're tough to beat. They had really good performance before. Doesn't matter who I play against, I just going to show my everything, give my best, treat them like the best player I going to face in front. Just enjoy my tennis," Zheng said when asked about playing either Gauff or Badosa.

Naomi Osaka