At the age of 8, he walked out of the mountains for tennis
At the age of 12, he won the men's singles championship in the national finals
He is sponsored by a Yiwu boss behind him
Tennis teenager Wang Fa in the back basket:
To be an athlete like Federer
With dark skin, a simple and honest smile, and a small bamboo basket with ethnic characteristics on his back, there are two tennis rackets in it... When this Wa teenager from Lincang, Yunnan stood on the tennis court and passed all the way, he couldn't help but arouse everyone's attention.
At the end of August, at the Guangzhou Station of the 2022 Youth Tennis Tournament, the skinny Wang Fa became a dark horse and won the U14 men's singles championship in one fell swoop.
As the first batch of Wa people in the country to officially contact tennis, standing under the spotlight, Wang Fa sighed in Mandarin with a hometown accent: "Tennis can change my life."
Behind him stood Zhang Xiaohong, a mentor who was looking forward to helping him achieve his "life counterattack".
Zhang Xiaohong, 55, has been a tennis coach for more than 20 years.
Since 2014, he has founded the Yunnan Kunming Wild Elephant Club, selected more than 20 "tennis seedlings" in the mountains of Yunnan, and brought them into the tennis world.
He firmly believes, "There will be a second Li Na in China."
I didn't expect to get so many people's attention
On August 30, the day after winning the Guangzhou Youth Tennis Tournament Championship, Wang Fa returned to the club and returned to his daily training.
For Wang Fa and coach Zhang Xiaohong, this championship is expected, and even the gold content is not high.
On the contrary, Zhang Xiaohong was a little disappointed with Wang Fa's unstable performance recently.
Previously, 14-year-old Wang Fa participated in four tennis matches in succession, including two for teenagers and two for adults. "The adult competition is for exercise, and the youth competition is to win the championship."
Compared with this match in Guangzhou, Zhang Xiaohong is more concerned about the National Youth Tennis Points Ranking Series in Chengdu.
In that game, Wang Fa regretfully stopped in the quarter-finals. "We arrived in Chengdu the night before and participated in the game the next day. Maybe he was too tired."
Wang Fa has had better results.
In 2020, on the Junior Tennis Tournament, at the age of 12, he won the men's singles championship in the national finals.
That year, he was in the top three in the national standings.
Wang Fa also obtained the first mobile phone for this purpose.
In China, most youth tennis competitions do not have bonuses, but there is a set of reward mechanisms circulating in the club - as long as you participate in the competition and get results, Zhang Xiaohong will satisfy a child's wish, "If you win the national championship, you will be rewarded with a mobile phone."
After returning from the Guangzhou match, Wang Fa did not mention any wishes. He only devoted himself to training. He was eager to break into the gate of professional tennis.
This time, the spotlight was on the teenager who was carrying a tennis racket in a Wa backpack.
"I'm surprised, I didn't expect so many people to follow me because of this game." Wang Fa saw everyone's encouragement and gave him more confidence.
8-year-old carrying a backpack out of the mountains to practice ball
The woven bamboo basket that Wang Fa used to hold his rackets had been in Zhang Xiaohong's car for six years.
"Mountain children can endure hardship, work hard, and be obedient. More importantly, if no one digs, they have no chance to get in touch with tennis at all. Even good seedlings will lose the opportunity." In 2014, he worked as a tennis coach for 20 years. Zhang Xiaohong of Zhang Xiaohong founded the club and aimed at children in the mountains.
Zhang Xiaohong wanted to select tennis seedlings for public welfare training, but he visited many places one after another, but no one believed him. "I have been to Yunnan, Sichuan, and Tibet, and when others hear it, they suspect that I am a liar."
Cangyuan County, Lincang, Yunnan took the lead in accepting Zhang Xiaohong.
In 2016, Zhang Xiaohong walked into the mountains of Lincang, Yunnan, and selected 10 Wa children, Wang Fa was one of them.
Zhang Xiaohong has a deep memory of Wang Fa's performance in the selection test.
"Running, throwing the ball, catching the ball, every test is excellent." Zhang Xiaohong commented that Wang Fa has good endurance, explosive power, coordination and reaction.
The basic skills test only took more than ten minutes, and Zhang Xiaohong spent more time lobbying the parents of these children.
Wang Fa's parents, in their 40s, were a pair of ordinary farmers in the mountains.
"Wang Fa is a good tennis player. It would be a pity not to cultivate it." Zhang Xiaohong put his certificate and past achievements in front of them, and the simple farmers finally nodded in agreement.
In the second half of 2016, Zhang Xiaohong took Wang Fa and other ten children out of the mountains.
Eight-year-old Wang Fa packed his belongings in a backpack commonly used by locals and left his parents, brother and sister.
Hit the wall every day, swing seven or eight thousand times
At first, the club was established near the Dianchi Acropolis in the community, with four courts and a tennis wall.
Next to the stadium, Zhang Xiaohong and his children live in a simple dormitory transformed from a shipping container.
Tennis training lasting five or six hours a day once made Wang Fa feel pain.
"I hit the wall every day, and I have to swing seven or eight thousand times a day." Wang Fa didn't like tennis at all at that time. Half a year later, when he and his teammates went home for the New Year, they were arguing not to go back to Kunming to practice.
After the Spring Festival, Zhang Xiaohong went to Lincang City again and spent 20 days going door-to-door to persuade the children to come back.
Zhang Xiaohong also adjusted the education model in reflection.
"Let the children like tennis first." Zhang Xiaohong accompanied the seven- or eight-year-old children 24 hours a day, telling them stories of sports athletes every day, "From Li Na, Zheng Jie, to Federer."
Wang Fa likes to listen to Federer's story the most.
In the past year or two, Wang Fa came to ask about Federer almost every day.
Wang Fa gradually regarded him as a role model and became more and more devoted to tennis.
Under the leadership of other players, Wang Fa became very eager to win, and after 6 hours of group training a day, he often practiced more.
Since the age of 10, Wang Fa's right palm has developed a layer of calluses.
Group training usually starts at 6:00 in the morning, but there are times when Wang Fa and the team members spontaneously get up and practice at 4:00 in the morning.
Since last year, Wang Fa began to write a diary every day to record his training situation and gains for the day.
"Because of tennis, I have gained a lot of friends, and I have traveled all over China." Wang Fa said that playing tennis has taught him to adjust his mentality. He returns home every New Year and his parents say that he has become more stable.
Wang Fa expects tennis to take him further, to become a great athlete like Federer, and to be the pride of his parents.
There is a Yiwu boss behind the sponsor
At present, there are more than 20 public welfare players paid by the club, the youngest is 3 years old and the oldest is 18 years old.
They come from Lincang, Chuxiong, Zhaotong, Nujiang, and most of them are ethnic minorities, Wa, Yi, Lisu, Bai...
In 2020, the club moved to Langfang, Hebei, the number of stadiums increased to 12, and the number of coaches also increased.
Parents from all over the country also came here as the players emerged in competitions big and small.
As more and more parents contacted, Zhang Xiaohong began to gradually change from selecting children to "assessing parents".
Zhang Xiaohong is only willing to accept parents who come with normal hearts. Their idea is - "If you can beat it, you can play it. If you can't play it, you can treat it as a special interest, and you have a good body."
When it comes to the child's assessment, in addition to the basic potential, Zhang Xiaohong is more concerned about the child's emotional investment in tennis.
"There are two types of liking. Some children really like it, and some are just to cater to their parents, or to avoid their studies and pretend to like it." In Zhang Xiaohong's view, children with limited physical conditions but enough to love tennis are more likely to become successful big.
Zhang Xiaohong usually tells parents that he has to spend two or three months with their children before deciding whether to cultivate each other. "Only in getting along can I feel whether the children really like tennis."
Zhang Xiaohong has reached cooperation with some provincial teams, but it was not successful in the end.
Right now, he wants to start a new attempt and use the performance of his players to find suitable financial sponsorships. His only requirement is, "My players still have to take them to the end."
Two years ago, Zhang Xiaohong met a Yiwu boss who likes tennis.
"He saw Wang Fa on the court, he was very optimistic about him, and he also competed with him." In 2020, the middle-aged man in his 40s lost to 12-year-old Wang Fa.
He has been sponsoring Wang Fa ever since.
Today, two years later, on September 14, they agreed to compete again in Yiwu.
Zhang Xiaohong said half-jokingly: "If Wang Fa wins again, the club will have another sponsorship."