One minute into the decider against top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland at this year’s French Open, China’s teen Zheng Qinwen made a bold decision to remove the bandages which had been wrapped around her right leg in the second set.
Though her movements were obviously slower, the 19-year-old player stepped back to the court and continued the battle without any hesitation. Her spirit won the respect of the audience as applause flooded the venue.
Playing her first clay major, Zheng saved five set points in an 82-minute opening set against Swiatek, the 2020 French Open winner, and came from 5-2 down to earn the chance in the tiebreak.
Though Zheng finally lost the match 6-7 (5), 6-0, 6-2, the result was significant for the French Open rookie. Before this match, Swiatek had cruised past 10 successive games with victories and had only lost five sets in her 31-match winning streak.
“She played amazing tennis,” said Swiatek after reaching the quarterfinals at Roland Garros for a third consecutive year, Xinhua reports.
“I was surprised with some of her shots, her topspin was amazing. And I feel like if she’s going to use it the right way, she can really be a great player,” Swiatek added.
While the world turned its spotlight to Zheng for challenging Swiatek and defeating two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep in the last round, Zheng felt regretful for stopping at a Grand Slam last 16, as she suffered with menstrual pain.
“The first day is always so tough,” said Zheng. “In the first set I was able to really get there and to say ‘come on’, but later, the match went on, I just felt too much pain. I couldn’t show my tennis in the second and third.”
In spite of acute pain, Zheng kept fighting to the last second of the match, and removed the bandages from her leg. “Compared to the pain in my stomach, the pain in my leg was easy. The bandages tied to the leg affected my movements, so I took them off and just wanted to give it a shot.
“It’s a pity that I cannot show what I wanted to show in the match against the world’s top seed,” she added. “But overall, I’m satisfied with my performance in the previous three rounds. I saw my possibility of playing different techniques and I think I can take much experience from these matches.”
The first journey to the French Open marked a breakthrough for the 19-year-old and built up her confidence as well.
“I can learn a lot from the match against Swiatek, but also I saw there was not really a gap between our ability. I’ll continue to work hard to include more techniques and strengthen my advantages. To keep improving is always the key,” she noted.