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Chinese teen Zheng continues French Open run in city of dreams

Qinwen Zheng of China talks to the media after defeating Alize Cornet of France in her French Open third round match at Roland Garros in Paris on May 28 2022.
Qinwen Zheng of China talks to the media after defeating Alize Cornet of France in her French Open third round match at Roland Garros in Paris on May 28 2022.
Image: Robert Prange/Getty Images

Zheng Qinwen grew up seeing Eiffel Tower pictures in her schoolbooks and the Chinese teenager is carving out a path to success in the city of dreams with her blazing run at the French Open.

Inspired by the success of compatriot Li Na, who became the first Asian player to win a major singles title with her 2011 triumph at Roland Garros, the 19-year-old Zheng has impressed with her aggressive play on her debut at the clay court Slam.

The 74th-ranked Zheng defeated higher-ranked Belgian Maryna Zanevska in her opening round and then sent out former world number one and French Open champion Simona Halep in the second.

On Saturday, she ended local hopes in the women's draw by defeating Alize Cornet on Court Philippe Chatrier to book her spot in the fourth round, having only made her Grand Slam debut at the year's opening major at the Australian Open.

Zheng said it was a childhood dream to play in a Grand Slam in front a big showcourt crowd and give her best performance.

“About Paris, when I was young in school, in lot of Chinese books have pictures of the Eiffel Tower,” she said.

“So when I was young, for me, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was like a dream place. I never thought I could be there. It was really nice to be here in Paris.”

Next up for the Chinese will be world number one Iga Swiatek, who is on a 31-match winning run.

Zheng is looking forward to the challenge and a chance to test herself against the Pole, who will turn 21 on Tuesday.

“She's a wonderful player. Actually, I have been preparing for this match, because I really want to play against her,” Zheng said.

“I'm excited for this match. I didn't watch a lot how she plays, but I know that she's a great clay court player.

Third seed Paula Badosa was forced to retire with a right calf injury from her third round match against Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday while the Spaniard was trailing 6-3 2-1.

The 24-year-old Badosa, who made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros last year, was considered one of those in the women's draw who could challenge Swiatek.

The 29th-seeded Kudermetova will face either American Madison Keys or Kazakh Elena Rybakina for a place in the quarterfinals.

The women's draw was further hampered by the exit of seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka, who went down to big-hitting Italian Camila Giorgi 4-6 6-1 6-0 on Court Simonne Mathieu.

Sabalenka, a former world number two, won the hard-fought opening set but then was reduced to a mere spectator as Giorgi scorched the court with winners.

The Belarusian managed to win only one more game as Giorgi completed a remarkable comeback win in an hour and 42 minutes to make the fourth round for the first time at Roland Garros.

The 30-year-old Giorgi, ranked 30th, will next meet 20th seed Daria Kasatkina for a place in the quarterfinals.