NEW YORK (AP) — Casper Ruud, the 2022 U.S. Open runner-up, was eliminated Wednesday night when Zhang Zhizhen became the first Chinese man to beat a player in the top five of the ATP rankings.
Zhang upset the No. 5 seed 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, 0-6, 6-2 to reach the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the second time. It was his second five-set victory to open this tournament after he lost his first four five-setters.
He wasn’t discouraged by those previous losses, with the breakthrough finally coming Monday when he outlasted J.J. Wolf in 4 1/2 hours.
“Try to just keep playing and keep believing yourself every single time,” Zhang said. “(Even in) tough moments, still try to believe yourself. In the end, you’ll make it.”
Zhang became the first Chinese man to compete in the main draw at Wimbledon in the professional era when he qualified in 2021. He qualified last year at the U.S. Open, joining Wu Yibing as the first men from their country in the main draw of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament.
The 26-year-old Zhang reached the third round of the French Open in June before falling to Ruud, who had been to the finals in three of the last six Grand Slam events.
“I mean, I’m not sitting here super disappointed with things that I could have done better or my level, but at the most important moments he was the better player. He stepped up,” Ruud said. “That was different from Paris. I think in Paris I was the one who really stepped up when I had to. It’s a different surface, of course. But he has a great serve, beautiful backhand, and forehand, also. When it’s on, it’s on and really dangerous.”
Ruud, who lost to Carlos Alcaraz last year in Flushing Meadows, is the highest-ranked Norwegian in the history of the ATP rankings, which date to 1973. He had reached No. 2 last year and is currently No. 5.
But after dropping the fourth set in just 23 minutes, Zhang broke Ruud’s serve to open the final set, adding a second for a 4-1 lead.
Zhang will face Rinky Hijikata of Australia in the third round, and Ruud believes he can keep on going.
“I was impressed, in a way, how he played,” Ruud said. “He’s going to be a threat for many years.”
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