Who is Jerry Shang? Meet the “gem” facing Carlos Alcaraz at the 2024 Australian OpenBy Jan 19, 2024
Who is Alycia Parks? Meet the big-serving American set to face Coco Gauff at the 2024 Australian OpenBy Jan 18, 2024
Who is Lorenzo Sonego? Meet the 28-year-old Italian set to face Carlos Alcaraz at the 2024 Australian OpenBy Jan 17, 2024
Who is Brenda Fruhvirtova? Meet the 16-year-old facing Aryna Sabalenka at the 2024 Australian OpenBy Jan 16, 2024
How tough is Iga Swiatek’s first round? Get to know Sofia Kenin, 2020 Australian Open championBy Jan 15, 2024
Who is Térence Atmane? A Beginner’s Guide to Daniil Medvedev’s 2024 Australian Open opponentBy Jan 14, 2024
Who is Dino Prizmic? A Beginner’s Guide to Novak Djokovic’s 2024 Australian Open opponentBy Jan 13, 2024
Beginner's Guide: Poland's eyes turn to Magda Linette in MelbourneBy Jan 22, 2023
Beginner’s Guide: Can Zhu Lin keep dream run going at breakthrough Australian Open?By Jan 22, 2023
Beginner’s Guide: Can Alex de Minaur keep home hopes alive with Australian Open run?By Jan 21, 2023
Who is Jerry Shang? Meet the “gem” facing Carlos Alcaraz at the 2024 Australian Open
The 18-year-old left-hander from China sits at a new career-high ranking, and has gone one round better this year in Melbourne.
Published Jan 19, 2024
It’s not every day that Carlos Alcaraz faces an opponent younger than him. In fact, the scenario has never happened with the 20-year-old at any level of professional tennis. Until now.
Enter Shang Juncheng ("Jerry"), a gifted left-hander who at 18, has made his mark in Melbourne the past two years and will take on the two-time major winner come Saturday.
In 2023, Shang became the first Chinese man to win a main-draw match at the Australian Open in the Open Era (later joined by countrymen Zhang Zhizhen and Wu Yibing in the second round). On Wednesday, he advanced to the third round of a major for the first time when he defeated qualifier Sumit Nagal, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
We spent a day with the rising talent at the IMG Academy last year to learn more about his story and why those around the bubbly teen are convinced results like this week’s Down Under are just the tip of the iceberg.
- DOB: February 2, 2005
- Birthplace: Beijing, China
- Height: 5’11” (1.80 m)
- Left-handed (two-handed backhand)
- Career-high rank: No. 140 (achieved this week)
- Coach: Martin Alund (through IMG Academy)
Shang was born with athletic DNA—mom Wu Na was a mixed doubles world champion in table tennis and dad Shang Yi was a national football (soccer) player. “The Tom & Jerry Show” inspired his nickname “Jerry”, who expended plenty of energy on many playing fields that included his father’s pastime. Often wearing a mega-watt smile, Shang beamed brightest when he was on the tennis court.
“My mom asked me, ‘Do you like tennis or golf more?’ As a kid, I was basically running around at home a lot and getting bored almost every minute. I thought tennis, you could run around,” he recounted to Tennis Channel. “I ended up liking tennis more, which is probably a good thing.”
With their son’s undeniable passion and potential, Shang’s parents eventually brought him to Florida when he was 11. Recalls Jimmy Arias about the first time he crossed paths with the standout junior, “He was playing the 12 and under U.S. Clay Court Nationals in Orlando and I remember thinking at the time, he seemed so advanced. He won in the final against a kid, 6-1, 6-2, and he already seemed almost like a man in some ways. His game was very mature.”
When Shang landed at IMG Academy, Arias’ sentiment was shared across the board. From his ball-striking abilities to his attitude, Shang made an immediate impression. Says Juan Herrera, director of day-to-day operations, “Not everyone can fit in an environment like this, but his combination of confidence and humbleness allows us to really work with him, to really think big and not focus on the little things.
“Jerry is a gem. He's a total package. He has the background with his parents, being former professional athletes, that also adds another layer of understanding of what it takes to be a top player.”
Martin Alund, a former Top 100 player who helped develop Shang’s game in Bradenton and worked with him on the road in 2022, is currently leading the charge for the Beijing native in Australia. The Argentine raves about Shang’s ability to absorb information and translate it to the court.
“We all agreed that he (had) to be a little bit more aggressive. We were always working on that. It's almost like he knew, he understands tennis very well. He was missing a little bit of that, like trying to stay more inside the baseline, trying to dictate points a little bit more,” says Alund. “He was always super talented in that, as soon as you say something, he will get it right away.”
In 2022, Shang successfully qualified at Indian Wells and won his first Challenger crown in Lexington on his way to cracking the Top 200. A year later, he came through qualifying at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros, earning his first major main-draw win in Melbourne. He defeated Ben Shelton in back-to-back weeks at Atlanta and Washington, D.C. on his way to entering the Top 150.
“I think the most important thing is keeping him concentrated and focused, trying to find a good balance of playing good tennis several weeks in a row,” believes Alund. “Moving the opponents with the forehand very well, opening the court with his lefty forehand and trying to step in on the next ball. Trying to play more like a Rafa style, playing a little bit more aggressive with the first serve.”
"Not everyone can fit in an environment like this, but his combination of confidence and humbleness allows us to really work with him, to really think big and not focus on the little things. Jerry is a gem. He's a total package."
That more assertive approach—and concentration—has been on display so far in 2024. Before beginning his Australian Open campaign, Shang advanced to his first ATP semifinal in Hong Kong in a run that saw him save two match points to prevail in a first of two decisive tie-breaks, knock out Frances Tiafoe and take the opening set off Andrey Rublev.
Awarded a wild card into the Melbourne major, Shang, now ranked a career-best No. 140, has made the most of the opportunity. In the first round, he came through a five-set match for the first time in his career by edging Mackenzie McDonald—a player he lost to last September. Looking to improve on his 2023 showing, Shang shook off a disappointing start against Sumit Nagal by winning all of his service games from the beginning of the second set onward in a mature, composed performance.
A third-round appearance is the latest milestone Shang has checked off his proverbial list. While he has ambitions that far exceed picking up a pair of wins on the Grand Slam stage, one won’t find Jerry putting in the hard yards without a smile or two or 100 to show for it.
“Ever since I started playing tennis, I want to be one of the best players in the world. And I think that's what every little kid, when they started one sport, that's what they think about. For me along the way, a lot of coaches, my parents, they've helped me a lot to achieve this and we're still working on it.
“It’s something that I don't put any pressure on, it's just, tennis is my favorite hobby. Now it's my job. So I just try to make it fun every day.”
If ever there was a player who rivals Shang in the having fun department, it’s Alcaraz. Those tuning in should expect plenty of firepower, flashy shot-making and grinning faces on Rod Laver Arena. What awaits until they step out on court: can Shang strike the right combination of cat and mouse to give the No. 2 seed a run for his money?