The tennis season may barely be over, but the thoughts of many are already turning to 2013. Among their number is Zhang Yuxuan, who at the end of October won the inaugural Asia-Pacific Australian Open Wildcard Play-off.
Zhang's reward is a first appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam - a fitting end to what has been a mightily impressive late-season surge.
Since losing to World No.508 Wen Xin at the start of August, Zhang has won 21 of her last 24 matches, including six in the play-off, held in Nanjing. Having started the year at a lowly No.1208 in the rankings,
the 18-year-old Bollettieri Academy graduate is now inside the Top 400 and rising.
With a few months to go until her Melbourne bow, wtatennis.com tracked down Zhang to find out a little bit more about Chinese tennis' latest discovery.
Can you tell us a little bit about your home town and your family?
ZY: I was born and grew up in Tianjin. It's one of the biggest cities in China and quite close to Beijing. My father's name is Zhang Daoli and he was a doctor, and my mother is called Chen Jihong and used to be a manager at a foreign enterprise company.
They both retired now and like to play sports, but not at a very serious level.
How did you start playing tennis?
ZY: I started out when I was very young. My parents wanted me to play a sport to get some exercise and luckily chose tennis. At first, it was just for fun,
but soon I found myself loving this sport more and more as time went by. I started playing matches and tournaments and now I'm in the Australian Open!
Can you tell us about your coaching history?
ZY: When I started playing seriously, my coach was Zhang Dalu. I didn't join in any national program until 2010 when I started with the Tianjin Tennis Team, when I also got some help from Gao Yang,
who is the coach from the amateur sports school for juniors in HeDong district, Tianjin. Before that I went to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in America and trained for two years.
Who were your tennis idols growing up?
ZY: Roger Federer.
What is the best memory of your tennis career to date?
ZY: My best memory is winning the Australian Open Wildcard Play-off recently. I'm so happy to be able to compete in the main draw of the Australian Open next year - it is a real dream coming true for me.
How would you describe your style of play?
ZY: My style is a balance between attack and defense. My strength is that I have diversified attacking skills and methods. My weakness is I'm not so good at playing on clay, as I haven't had much experience of those courts so far in my career.
Who travels with you on tour?
ZY: My mother travels with me most of the time and once in a while my coach is with me too.
What is your favorite surface?
ZY: I like hardcourts most of all - it suits my game well.
ZY: I really like the China Open and hope I can play there next year. I am also a big fan of all the Grand Slams.
What are your short and long-term goals?
ZY: My long-term goal is to win a Grand Slam and become the World No.1 in the WTA rankings. My short-term goal is to get into the Top 100.
How do you relax away from the courts?
ZY: I like to play my electronic keyboard when I have time. I also enjoy listening to XiangShen, which is a traditional Chinese comedy talk show, and other usual things like eating nice food, reading, and, most importantly, sleeping!
How far did you go in your education?
ZY: I'm now studying at Tianjin Sports School, which is a high school near my home. I will graduate next year and then will go to university after that.
What would you have done if you hadn't been a tennis player?
ZY: I have always wanted to be a tennis player since I was very young so I haven't really thought that possibility through!