“I’m happy because I’ve been consistent with my performances this year,” said Zhao, who has four runner-up finishes to her credit thus far. “It’s really pushed up my junior ranking and I feel I’m on track to do something great.”
She credits her participation in Tennis Canada’s National Training Centre (NTC) Program for her recent success on the tennis courts.
“The program provides everything we need to become the best tennis player we can be,” said Zhao, who relocated to Montreal in September of 2010 to be part of the NTC. “We are given the opportunity to compete in big tournaments around the world and against the best junior players.”
According to her current coach, Ralph Platz, the young tennis star exhibits certain qualities that leads him to believe a very bright future is ahead for her on the tennis courts.
“She’s got fantastic work ethic,” said Platz. “She’s very disciplined in the physical aspect and if she can be disciplined in the mental aspect then I think she can raise her game to that next level very quickly,”
With so many stellar performances so far in 2012, Platz believes Zhao’s most significant accomplishment came at the junior U.S. Open in September.
“At the U.S. Open, she got to the round of 16 and lost a very tight match to a girl ranked in the WTA top 150,” he pointed out. “In hindsight, really, she should have won the match but I think that was a great result win or lose……She had a great match there; and it’s been building ever since.”
NTC teammate, Erin Routliffe, points to other qualities that have been important success factors for Zhao.
“In tennis, she's obviously a great player and I love playing doubles with her because she's so relaxed,” said Routliffe, herself a highly ranked junior. “We’re always making jokes on the court and it's great because it keeps us from getting tense and nervous in our matches.”
“She's definitely one of the funniest people I know,” added the Caledon, Ont. native, who along with Zhao captured the Pan Am double titles in early October. “She makes travelling a lot more fun and very enjoyable all the time.”
Coach Platz echoes Routliffe’s comments about the rising Richmond Hill tennis star.
On the topic of music, Zhao is quick to express her affection.
“I love music. I like to think that I'm pretty musical; I played piano for 10 years and played the saxophone for a few years,” she revealed.