Zhang's fairytale run in Beijing ends

Chinese wildcard Zhang Ze's fairytale run at the China Open came to an end on Friday when he suffered a straight-sets defeat to Germany's Florian Mayer in the quarter-finals.

The 22-year-old, ranked 165th in the world, made history in the last 16 when he became the first Chinese man ever to beat a top 20 player, dumping out France's Richard Gasquet.

His defeat of the Frenchman, ranked 14th, also meant Zhang was the first men's player from China to reach the quarter-final of an ATP event since Pan Bing made the semi-finals in Seoul in 1995.

But matching Pan's 17-year-old mark proved a step too far for Zhang, with world number 29 Mayer winning 6-3, 6-4.

"Mayer has a lot of force in the forehand but his backhand is still good and he made a lot of changes to the slice of the ball which really affected my rhythm," Zhang said.

"I couldn't work out an effective strategy to work against him."

The six foot two inches (188 cm) right-hander from Nanjing has enjoyed a rapid rise up the rankings this year.

Recently he became the highest ranked men's player in Chinese tennis history, moving from 292nd at the start of the year to 165th currently. Pan's highest ranking was 176.

Zhang's exploits in Beijing this week could propel him a further 20 places up the standings and he now has his sights set on breaking into the top 100.

"It is my eventual ambition and goal. I hope to make it possible next year," he said.

Zhang has credited his ascent to the appointment last autumn of foreign coach Guillaume Peyre.

He said that Peyre had been hired because he has more experience than domestic Chinese coaches.

"I think the single largest difference is he is more detail-oriented before the match," Zhang said of Peyre, who coached 2006 Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis and Gasquet.

"He makes an analysis into the pros and cons of the opponent and teaches me how to play the right game."

"He has taught me how to be more confident than ever before," he added. "Now when I am participating in important tournaments like the China Open I know I can control the game."

Zhang this year also became the first Chinese player since the mid-1990s to win Grand Slam qualifying matches, at Wimbledon and the French Open.

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