Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Written by AELTC staff
Surprise semi-finalist Zheng Jie has pledged to donate the prize money she earns from this year’s Championships to victims of the Chinese earthquake.
Zheng only got into the draw because she was given a wild card, but she has justified that by beating four seeds on her way to setting up a semi-final clash with Serena Williams.
That makes the 24-year-old the first Chinese player to make a Grand Slam semi and the first wild card to go this far in the Wimbledon ladies’ singles. Currently ranked 133, she is also only the second player ranked outside the top 100 to reach this stage.
Her efforts so far have guaranteed her prize money of £187,500 and, if she was to celebrate her 25th birthday on Saturday by lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish, she would collect a cheque for £750,000.
But today she told a news conference that she did not plan to keep a penny of it. Zheng hails from Sichuan, the province that was at the epicentre of the quake on 12 May, which killed more than 69,000 people.
And, after explaining that some of her prize money would be assigned to the Chinese tennis federation – which sponsors the travel costs of all China’s globetrotting competitors – she said: "I will donate all my portion and apart from that I will do as much as I can to help the people of the region.
"When I go back there after Wimbledon I will do more charity work and encourage more people to come and support the stricken region.
"I would like to give all my prize money but I cannot. I need to give back something to the tennis association."
Zheng expressed her "surprise" that she was the first Chinese to reach a Grand Slam semi-final and said she had already received many messages of congratulation from her homeland, where her quarter-final victory over Nicole Vaidisova was watched by millions of TV viewers in the early hours of the morning.
She said she got into tennis as a child by accident. "As a child I was very sporty and lively and my parents wanted me to have more practice, to be healthy. At that time there were not many people in China who knew this tennis game, but as soon as I started to play I fell in love with it."