© Rena Behr

Shang Juncheng reunites with ballkid Atharva Dang.

Shang Juncheng Rescues Heat Stricken Ballkid In Lexington

Chinese teen plays role of first responder at ATP Tour Challenger... and creates history in the process

If you’re a ballkid in need, you best hope you’re working a Shang Juncheng match.

Fans at the Lexington ATP Challenger Tour event this week witnessed a wonderful act of sportsmanship by the world No. 344 Chinese player. The 17-year-old and American Stefan Dostanic were locked in a three-set battle in scorching temperatures in the American state of Kentucky when Shang noticed a ballkid, Atharva Dang, in distress.

After asking Atharva if he was okay, Shang exclaimed, “He’s going to faint!” Immediately, Shang set his racquet down and assisted the overheated boy, lifting him into his arms and rushing him behind the umpire’s chair and out of the direct sunlight. After setting him down in the shade, Shang gave a bottle of water to Atharva and placed an ice-pack behind his head.

“I turned around to ask for the ball. When the ballkid gave me the ball, he looked like he was unable to stand,” Shang said. “I asked him, ‘How are you?’ and he said, ‘I don’t feel good.’ He staggered over and I felt like he was going to faint right away. I just did everything I could do with my gut feeling,” the teenager recalled.

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Since that moment of sportsmanship, all is well for both Shang and the Atharva. They reunited for a picture the following day and Dang competed in a local tournament on Friday. Shang has advanced to the semi-finals in Lexington, becoming the youngest player to reach a Challenger semi-final since Carlos Alcaraz at Alicante in 2020.

“I remember everything,” Atharva said. “I remember giving him the ball and then he asked me if I was OK. I then remember him dropping his racquet and helping me over to the side where they gave me ice.”

In Saturday's semi-finals, Shang will play World No. 229 American Aleksandar Kovacevic, who two weeks ago held, but could not convert, six championship points against another Chinese player, Wu Yibing, in the Challenger Tour final in Indianapolis.

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