Who is Lulu Sun? The qualifier that has taken Wimbledon by storm

by Bren Gray
lulu sun

Each Grand Slam, there’s invariably at least one player who comes from obscurity to make a deep run.

Think Jo-Wilfred Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open. Emma Raducanu at the 2021 US Open. The kinds of players that even in the conversation pre-tournament, then go on to cause wave after wave as they make it further than anyone expected them to.

This year, that player is Lulu Sun in the women’s event. The New Zealander is ranked No 123, and had never won a Grand Slam match ahead of playing in this year’s Wimbledon. Now, she’s up against Donna Vekic in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, with a spot in the semi-finals just around the corner.

Where is she from, what did she achieved this Wimbledon, and how did her career unfold so far?

Where is Lulu Sun from?

Lulu Sun is a 23-year-old New Zealand tennis player. But it’s a little more complicated than that–Sun is something of an international citizen.

She was born in New Zealand, in the South Island town of Te Anau, where her parents lived at the time. 

However, at age five, Sun moved to Switzerland, to live with her mother and grandmother in Geneva. Here she did her schooling, all the time while traveling back to New Zealand and maintaining a connection with the country.

Sun then headed across the Atlantic to the United States for university. She studied at the University of Texas in Austin, gaining a bachelors in global studies and international development.

Now, she lives back in Geneva, where she is based when she’s not traveling for tennis.

Oh, and did we mention that her mother is Chinese, and her father is Croatian? Sun has plenty of places to call home.

What has Lulu Sun done at Wimbledon?

Sun entered Wimbledon qualifying for the second year in a row, having fallen at the final hurdle and lost in the third round of qualifying last year. 

This time, she went one step further and qualified for the Grand Slam. This came off the back of victories over Miriam Bianca Bulgaru, 6-2, 6-1, Gabriela Andrea Knutson, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) and Alexandra Eala, 7-6(3), 7-5.

With a berth in what would be only her second Grand Slam main draw, Sun was drawn to face No 8 seed Qinwen Zheng. Against all odds, she upset the Chinese No 1, defeating her 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Next up, Sun played Ukraine’s Yuliia Starodubtseva. She again went the distance and won, prevailing 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. She faced another Chinese player in the third time, this time winning in straight sets, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) against Lin Zhu to make the round of 16.

Here, she faced not only a tough opponent on the other side of the net, but the full force of the British public as well. Her foe was British darling and 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu. 

Playing on Centre Court, Sun rose to the occasion. The Kiwi blasted more than 50 winners, with both her cross court forehand and backhand in brilliant form. Raducanu put up a good fight, but was unable to stick with the world No 123, falling 6-2, 5-7, 6-2.

Now, Sun is into her maiden Grand Slam quarter-final, where she’ll play world No 37 Donna Vekic for a spot in the penultimate match of the tournament.

What else has Sun achieved in her career?

When we say Sun has come from relative obscurity to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals, this is no exaggeration.

The Kiwi has been playing at the ITF level most of this year, and attempting to qualify for larger events. 

In April, she won the biggest title of her career, claiming the ITF/USTA W100 in Bonita Springs, Florida. Earlier in the year, she had made her WTA 1000 debut, winning her opening match when Paula Badosa withdrew injured. She was dispatched by Jelena Ostapenko in straight sets the following match.

Before debuting on the WTA Tour, Sun had played a season of college tennis in the United States. She was very successful at that level, winning 15 of her 16 singles matches on court three and six of seven on court two. Her figures helped lead the Longhorns to the 2021 NCAA tournament title.

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