From the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships at The Boulevard to the Miami Open at Hard Rock Stadium.
That’s the journey that 17-year-old Jerry Shang has taken in matter of just five months.
The 2021 singles champion at Vero Beach’s annual $15,000 U.S. Tennis Association Pro Circuit ITF World Tennis Tour tournament in October, Shang received a “wild card” entry into one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world, where his name was placed in the same singles draw as current greats Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andy Murray among many others.
Shang drew former U.S. Olympian Denis Kudla, the world No. 81, in the first round and in a topsy-turvy battle that last two minutes shy of three hours, Shang was defeated 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday, night March 23.
Shang dazzled many times through the match, edging out a first-set tiebreaker, and actually served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Nerves, naturally, set in for the young player on the cusp of the biggest win in his fledging pro career, as missed first serves and errors littered his efforts. Kudla won five games in a row to not only take the second set, but lead by a break 2-0 in the third set. Kudla, a veteran 29-year-old player who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2015, appeared to hold the momentum in the match and seemed poised to win an easy win in the third set. However, Shang remained determined and won four games in a row to serve at 4-3 in the final set, again at the doorstep at a big first-round win. Nerves, and a resilient Kudla, took hold again as Kudla was able to reel off the last three games of the match.
Since he beat Ricardo Rodriguez in the final of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championship in the event’s special “October edition” at The Boulevard as a player ranked No. 1041, Shang has improved his ATP singles ranking to No. 441 while playing events on the $15,000 and $25,000 level on the ITF World Tennis Tour event, as well as Challengers and ATP Tour events. He played his first ATP Tour level evet in Rio de Janiero in February, losing to world No. 62 Pedro Martinez 6-3, 6-4. After winning the $15,000 event in Naples, Florida, He won two qualifying matches against two top 150-ranked players (No. 100 Francisco Cerundolo and No. 128 Mats Moraing) to reach the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells before losing to No. 99 Jaume Munar of Spain.
Shang’s recent results would indicate that he has now moved beyond playing in $15,000 events like Vero Beach, the lowest level of professional tennis. However, if Shang is unable to gain entries in Challenger-level events this April, a return trip to Vero Beach could be in the cards. The 2022 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships will be held April 25-May 1 at The Boulevard. For ticket, box seat and sponsorship information, go to www.MardyFishChildrensFoundation.org.