(Reuters) -When Zhang Zhizhen steps out at Wimbledon next week to face France's Antoine Hoang it will be a long-overdue milestone for Chinese men's tennis.
The world number 178 will be the first Chinese male to play in the Wimbledon main draw in the professional era, having survived the qualifying event at Roehampton this week.
The 24-year-old, who booked his spot by defeating Argentine Francisco Cerundolo in four sets on Thursday, will be only the fourth Chinese man to play singles in the main draw of a Grand Slam since the Open era began in 1968.
No Chinese man has played in the singles since 1959.
Wu Di (2013, 2014, 2016), Zhang Ze (2014, 2015) and Li Zhe (2019) have all played at the Australian Open.
It has been something of a mystery why Chinese men have failed to emulate the country's women, who have provided many top players including Li Na who won the French and Australian Open titles before retiring in 2014.
Zhang Zhizhen is currently the only Chinese male player in the top 250 in the ATP rankings.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman and Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Toby Davis)