Ziqi Wang said he bases his game on that of current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic — an aggressive baseline player with a dangerous serve.
On Tuesday, Wang showed just how lethal that style of play can be as he powered his way to consecutive Alabama Junior State Qualifying titles without dropping a set.
In fact, the Birmingham native, a rising senior at Vestavia Hills, had a hard time recalling the last time he failed to win in straight sets.
“At qualifying, I can’t remember, not at this tournament,” Wang said, laughing. “But the last time I dropped a set was the National Open. Actually, I dropped two matches. Those tournaments are tough. Alabama, we’re all right, but we’re definitely not the strongest tennis state.”
Sixty-four of the state’s top 18-year-old boys and girls battled through five rounds of singles play and four rounds of doubles over the past four days at Lagoon Park.
Wang, who entered the tournament ranked No. 1 in the state, secured a spot in next week’s Southern Boys’ and Girls’ 18 Closed in Mobile after defeating Preston Touliatos, an unseeded player from Birmingham, 6-1, 6-1.
“It’s a great feeling, no matter what the tournament or what the level,” Wang said. “It’s always a great feeling coming out on top. Everything was feeling awesome today. Everything clicked.”
After his semifinal rout of Spanish Fort’s Mitchell Vegas, the 6-foot-2 right-hander said both his backhand shot and his return game had room for improvement. Yet Wang broke Touliatos’ serve all but twice, and his down-the-line backhand winner sealed the final victory.
Wang worked easily through the main bracket, surrendering just 10 games through four matches, but the two-time AHSAA state champion was quick to point out his title run was harder than it looked.
“I’ve had a couple of tough matches,” Wang said. “I mean, my opponent today was good. I felt like it was a lot closer than the score showed.”
Wang took the lead early to put Touliatos on the defensive, controlling a majority of the points and forcing an array of unforced errors.
The Oak Mountain rising senior eventually vented his frustration after falling behind on serve in the second set. Touliatos did his best Andy Roddick impression, yelling at no one in particular before sending the ball into the parking lot.
While Wang said he felt more relaxed upon seeing Touliatos’ emotions boil over, he isn’t convinced junior tennis warrants such anger.
“It changes the tension of the match completely, especially after the chair umpire gave Preston a point-penalty for that,” Wang said. “What I try to do out here is just have fun and enjoy the match. That stuff kind of ruins it a little bit, so I’d rather that not happen.”
Wang teamed up with close friend Trey McComb of Hoover in doubles play to claim his second title of the tournament. In Sunday’s final, the top-seeded duo defeated Taylor Ausbon and William Hooper 8-4. McComb and Wang dropped just eight games in four matches.