LONDON (AFP) – Zhang Zhizhen, the first Chinese man in the Open era to qualify for Wimbledon, exited in the first round on Tuesday (June 29) losing to Frenchman Antoine Hoang in a thrilling five-set match 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3, 6-2.
Zhang, 24, twice led in the match but each time his fellow qualifier – ranked 156 and 19 places higher than his opponent – fought back to level.
Zhang did not have the best of starts with Hoang breaking his first service game but he broke back midway through the first set and drew level at 4-4.
Zhang had built up a head of steam as he settled into the unfamiliar surroundings of a main draw match at Wimbledon and broke Hoang again before sealing the set on his service.
A very tight second set went to a tie-break which Hoang took (7/5) to level the match.
Hoang broke Zhang in the first game of the third set but once again the Chinese player hung in there and broke back for 3-3.
That set also went to a tie-break with Zhang going two sets to one up after winning it 7/5.
Hoang showed little sign of being disheartened and raced into a 3-0 lead in the fourth set before rain forced them off the court.
Hoang’s focus was not affected by several hours off court and he returned to take the match into the deciding set winning the fourth 6-3.
The momentum seemed to have swung inexorably to the Frenchman as he broke early in the fifth to lead 3-1 and then broke Zhang again for 4-1 before sealing a second round clash with Sebastian Korda.