Lulu Sun’s Historic Run Continues at Wimbledon

The first New Zealander to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon will face Emma Raducanu on Saturday.

Lulu Sun, ranked world No. 123, may not be a household name, but the New Zealander is making a name for herself as she confidently makes her way through the draw at Wimbledon.

The dangerous lefty plays an attacking, all-court game that can trouble even the most experienced opponent.

The 23-year-old Sun came through qualifying at Wimbledon and, in the first round, notched both her first top 10 win and her first win at a major, with an upset of eighth seed Zheng Qinwen, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. She reached the third round with a win over Yuliia Starodubtseva 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and followed that up with another hard-fought win,  7-6 (4), 7-6 (6) over China’s Zhu Lin.

With that victory, Sun becomes the first woman representing New Zealand to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon in the Open Era, and the first woman representing New Zealand to reach the fourth round of any major since Belinda Cordwell made the 1988 Australian Open semifinals.

Sun was asked in her post-match press conference if she was surprised to find herself in this position.

“I wasn’t expecting to be here at this stage, but I’ve just been playing match-by-match, and here I am,” she said with a laugh.

Global citizen is a Kiwi at heart

Sun was born in New Zealand and grew up in Switzerland, has a Croatian father and Chinese mother.  Her grandparents still live in Te Anau, a small town on the South Island of New Zealand where Sun was born, and her step-father is from Devon, England. Sun says her multi-cultural background (she speaks three languages fluently), manifests in different aspects of her personality, giving her a sense of adventure, feisty drive and a bit of calm to draw on when needed.

In 2015 at just 14 years of age, Sun became the first player born in 2001 to gain a WTA ranking. When injury and the pandemic complicated her transition from juniors to the professional circuit, Sun’s mother encouraged her to further her education.

She enrolled in college and went on to play tennis for University of Texas at Austin, where she majored in international relations and global studies, and played alongside another WTA rising star, Peyton Stearns.

After finishing her studies, an ankle injury halted Sun’s tennis progress in early 2023 but she kicked off 2024 with a bang.

After playing just two WTA 125 matches in 2023, at the 2024 ASB Classic in early January, Sun came through qualifying and made it to the second round of the main draw.

She has said that the warm reception she received in Auckland played a role in switching national allegiances from Switzerland to New Zealand. In March, she announced her decision on Instagram.

“Throughout the years, my deep bond with New Zealand has remained, and many of my favourite memories have involved spending time amidst the natural wonders of New Zealand with my extended family,” she said. “Representing New Zealand is more than a professional choice; it is a tribute to my roots, a celebration of my origin and a commitment to the country that has always been a fundamental part of who I am and who I want to become. I look forward to being part of the New Zealand team in the upcoming Billie Jean King Cup and contributing to our success now and for many years to come.”

Sun played for New Zealand at the Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers in April 2024 and is confirmed to partner with Erin Routliffe in doubles, representing New Zealand at the Paris Olympics in July.

Made Major Main Draw Debut at 2024 AO

Following on her success at the ASB Classic, Sun qualified for her first Major appearance at the 2024 Australian Open.  She has won seven singles titles on the ITF circuit, and is currently at her career-high singles ranking of 123; in May she reached her best doubles rank of 219.

Next Up: Emma Raducanu

When asked about the prospect of facing British wildcard and former US Open champion Emma Raducanu on Wimbledon’s Centre Court in the fourth round, Sun said she would embrace the opportunity.

“I would be super happy to be able to play against such a great athlete,” said Sun. “I’m pretty sure she’s Wimbledon’s favorite since she is from here. Playing on Centre and playing against her would be an opportunity — I’d be happy to play her.”

With Raducanu’s upset of no. 9 seed Maria Sakkari today, Sun will have the chance on Saturday, July 6.