Ex-Slam semifinalist details why Zheng Qinwen is certainly primed for 'Slam wins'

Zheng, 21, made her maiden Grand Slam final at this past Australian Open.

by Dzevad Mesic
Ex-Slam semifinalist details why Zheng Qinwen is certainly primed for 'Slam wins'
© Getty Images Sport - Cameron Spencer

Tim Henman is backing Zheng Qinwen to have a very bright future as the former British six-time Grand Slam semifinalist is "convinced" that the 21-year-old Chinese will land Grand Slam titles in the future.

Zheng, who just turned 21 in October, put up a major run at this past Australian Open to reach her first Grand Slam final. As a reward for her outstanding run, Zheng got a chance to take on defending Australian Open Aryna Sabalenka in the final at Melbourne Park. 

Although Zheng was having the tournament of her life, it was clear that Sabalenka was the big favorite in their match considering how dominantly she was winning and her previous Grand Slam finals experience. In the end, Zheng wasn't able to create an upset as Sabalenka controlled the match from the beginning until the end to beat the Chinese 6-3 6-2.

However, Henman highlights that it was still some "incredible tennis" from Zheng in Australia and underlines that there are several aspects of the game that the 21-year-old Chinese can still improve. If Zheng continues to trend in the right direction, Henman believes big things are on the way for the new world No. 7 

“I think she is just scratching the surface,” Henman told Eurosport about Zheng. 

“She has played incredible tennis and this is a massive learning curve. I am sure it would have been painful to have been hit off the court [in the final], but I think with her work ethic and mentality and game, there are so many areas she can improve on.

“She can improve her serve. The forehand can be a weapon but can be erratic. The motivation from getting to a final and losing I am sure she will continue working hard.

“If she is this good with all the improvements she can make I am convinced she will win majors in the future.”

Zheng Qinwen
Zheng Qinwen© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Henman, Mats Wilander back Zheng for future success

At the Australian Open, Zheng met her idol Li Na before writing Chinese tennis history. Li, a former world No. 2, clinched her second Grand Slam title at the 2014 Australian Open. For the 10th anniversary of her Australian Open victory, Li returned to Melbourne Park as she shared a warm moment with Zheng, the new top-ranked Chinese female tennis player. 

On January 25th, Zheng defeated Dayana Yastremska to make the Australian Open final and become the first Chinese since Li in 2014 to reach a Grand Slam final. On that same date 10 years earlier, Li won the Australian Open after beating Dominika Cibulkova in the final. 

Wilander, a former seven-time Grand Slam champion, thinks Zheng will learn certain lessons from Li. Also, Wilander is certain that Zheng will only get better going forward, considering how big of a hard worker she is.

“She would have learned a lot from what Li Na has done over the years,” Wilander said about Zheng.

“I think she will improve massively when you heard her coach talk about how hard she works, wakes up at 7 am, never complains, will practice any time. It’s very refreshing to me.”

Zheng Qinwen
Zheng Qinwen© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Zheng's brutally honest admissions after her first Grand Slam final

After losing easily to Sabalenka in the Australian Open final, Zheng was pretty candid when addressing what happened on the court, admitting that she "did not play my best" before adding, "that's a real pity for me, because I really want to show better than that."

While Zheng wasn't happy with her performance in the final, the was satisfied with some of the wins she was able to clinch en route to making the final. 

“I would say there were a lot of difficult matches for me on the way, and I was able to hold that difficult moment and trying to win the match even (if) I wasn’t play my best tennis, I wasn’t feeling that good there,” she said.

“Actually, I think I can learn more with the loss today, and then I just hope next time I can come back as a better tennis player and come back stronger.”

Further addressing her Australian Open final loss and performance against Sabalenka, Zheng brutally honestly confessed that it was a clear sign that she needed to still work a lot more on her game. 

"Maybe I have to work more on my tennis, also work more on my mental side, work more on myself to be able to through this moment," Zheng honestly stated after her Australian Open final loss. 

"Because if you lose, there must be reason behind why you lose, and we have to try to figure out why and then come back stronger and better next time."

Meanwhile, Zheng is currently resting and recharging. This month, Zheng will return to action at the Middle East Swing as the new world No. 7 is signed up to play in a WTA 1000 tournament in Dubai. 

In Dubai, Zheng is set to make her second appearance. Last year, Zheng suffered a second-round defeat in her Dubai debut.

Pretty much all top players are set to compete in Dubai and it will be interesting to see how Zheng does in her first post-Australian Open tournament.

Australian Open