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Zheng feeling heat of Wimbledon return
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Zheng feeling heat of Wimbledon return

Chinese tennis ace and Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie confessed to feeling the weight of public expectation in her return to the All England Club.

The 26-year-old was awarded a wild card to compete in the grass court Grand Slam event last year.

She then stunned the tennis world by eliminating several top players including then world No 1 Ana Ivanovic en route to the semifinals where she was eventually stopped by Serena Williams. She is now enjoying her best season and returns to Wimbledon as the No 16 seed.

"Indeed, there is a big change for me in one year and I do feel more pressure coming back here," Zheng told China Daily through an interview arranged by Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

"A lot of people hope I make the semifinals again or go even better."

Last year's sensational victory made Zheng the most popular sporting figure in China.

She has since coped well with the pressure of expectation, peaking at No 15 in the world as the highest ever ranked Chinese player last month.

Zheng attributed her success to a "relaxed attitude".

"I just relax and enjoy the game," she said. "I give my best out there and play one game at a time."

Despite the pressure, the Sichuan native and 2006 women's doubles champion said she enjoys the special yet strange bond she has with Wimbledon.

"It is very strange China doesn't have any tennis grass courts but I am able to play my best at Wimbledon," she said. "Wimbledon gives me a good reception and I enjoy playing here very much because there is always a lot of support here."

Zheng will play German Kristina Barrois in the first round.

Apart from Zheng, Li Na, a 2006 quarterfinalist and current World No 19, also carries China's tennis hopes.

Earlier this month, she rose to world No 19 to give China two players in the top 20 for the first time.

"It's a big accomplishment for China and we've come a long way," Zheng said. "Both of us have trained so hard because we've been sidelined for more than half a year with injuries.

"I am happy for myself and also Li Na.

"And I sincerely hope more Chinese youngsters will come out and show their ability, not just the 'old faces' like Li and me."

(China Daily June 22, 2009)

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