Chinese tennis star and Chengdu native Zheng Jie (郑洁) returned to Sichuan yesterday to participate in charity events in the area affected by last year's earthquake on May 12, which killed at least 69,000.
Zheng, currently China's top female tennis player, was playing in Italy when the quake struck. Shortly afterward, Zheng became the darling of international tennis when she upset the world number one Ana Ivanovic en route to the semifinals at Wimbledon, where she lost to Serena Williams.
Zheng was the first Chinese player - male or female – to make it to the Wimbledon semis. She was lauded at home in China for donating all of her winnings at Wimbledon, totaling more than 1 million yuan (US$146,334), to the earthquake relief effort. She also built a playground for students in the hard-hit city of Dujiangyan.
Zheng will be playing in Europe on May 12, so she decided to make an appearance just prior to the quake's anniversary.
"I will play matches in Europe on May 12 this year, so I will visit the stricken area a few days earlier this time," Zheng told Chinese media. "As a Sichuan native, I'm very happy to contribute to my hometown as much as possible."
This time around, Zheng was scheduled to visit primary school students of Hongbai Town in Shifang city and donate tennis equipment supplied by Chinese sporting goods company Anta, which sponsors her.
Zheng's international success has been a driving force behind a surge of interest in tennis in China. China is gradually building more of an infrastructure to promote tennis at the grassroots level, including the recently announced China Open Rating Tour (CRT), an amateur league which will host competitions in seven cities nationwide, including Chengdu.
Zheng, who is ranked 16th in the world, said her present goal is to crack the top 15. She is currently preparing to compete in the Fed Cup and French Open in May.