FLASHBACK: Zheng Qinwen pulled off a masterful tweener in Doha earlier this season.


NEW YORK—On the court and off, Zheng Qinwen loves a rollercoaster.

“It’s one of my favorite activities,” she said of her penchant for amusement parks, having already visited Universal Orlando. “I really love the excitement you feel at the highest points. That makes me feel relaxed and free.”

The ups and downs are less relaxing in the context of a tennis match, but the 20-year-old Chinese star is learning to play through them as she finds herself in the second week of the US Open for the first time.

“When you’re playing against a good player, these ups and downs can cost you the match, and it almost did today,” she said of her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over Lucia Bronzetti. “I hope I can try to be better in this part. Even if I have a few ups and downs, it’s ok, but it shouldn’t take me three games, instead one game, or maybe two or three points. That’s fine.”

Zheng conveys frank assessments of what she can still improve with an optimistic tone, congratulating herself for navigating her persistent service woes and for managing a particularly impressive delivery despite an intermittent hitch in her motion.

In the midst of an impressive second full season on tour, Zheng has continued turning heads among the tennis cognoscenti, winning a maiden WTA title in Palermo and cracking the Top 20 for the first time.

Still, the No. 23 seed has been hard at work with coach Wim Fissette in between matches, looking to improve mainly for herself as she still feels a long way from matching the heights set by junior contemporary Coco Gauff.

“I think she has much better talent than me,” said Zheng. “She arrived in the top much earlier than me. When I was still struggling in the juniors and growing into the professionals, she was already there in the top. She had great performances at the Slams, is already a Top 10 player, so she has much more experience.

“But I can only compete with the opponent in front of me, not against anyone else, who they’re winning or losing to. There is only one opponent I have to beat, and that’s the one in front of the net.”

The hours spent practicing on site means she has rarely found time to explore New York City, even on her days off.

“I went to a Chinese restaurant before the tournament started, and that was really good,” she said of Flushing’s famed cuisine. “I also did some karaoke, where they had Chinese songs.

“Mostly I sing Chinese songs, slower songs,” added the Blackpink stan. “I also do some Chinese rap. I maybe only sing three or four English songs. For the most part, it’s Chinese.”

Might Zheng be singing a different tune in about a week’s time? The rollercoaster continues.