Test Your Knowledge of Chinese Nicknames for Tennis Players

By James Pham

Changeover contributor James Pham is on site as the tournament’s in-house writer, writing website posts, press releases, doing player interviews and whatever else needs editorial support for the week. He shares some behind-the-scenes notes with The Changeover.

In press conferences this week at the Shenzhen Open, I’ve been hearing about Chinese nicknames for the players, like in this priceless exchange:

Reporter to Richard Gasquet: Do you know your nickname in China? We call you “Dau Phu”. Do you know what that means?

Gasquet: What?

Reporter: Tofu. Chinese food. Bean curd. You know bean curd? Tofu? Soya… It’s white. You’re white. Tofu looks lovely. You’re lovely.

Gasquet: Thank you.

Reporter: You can cook it in so many ways. You’re considered an all-court player. So that’s your nickname. You never had tofu before right?

Gasquet: No, never. Never in my life.

Reporter: You’re okay with [the nickname]?

Gasquet: Yes, no problem.

What? Seriously? Gasquet has never heard of tofu? Who doesn’t know tofu? Has he never been to a Chinese restaurant? Ah, but I digress…

After the presser, someone told me there’s another reason he’s called “Tofu”… “Because tofu is soft and easily broken.” Ouch.

Pospisil is known as Shao Shen Rvo which literally means “Little Fresh Meat”. I guess baby blues and a toothsome smile transcend language barriers.

This got me wondering what other players have endearing nicknames, something the Chinese love to use. So in honor of China hosting three straight weeks of men’s tennis for the very first time, I present you with the Chinese Nickname Tennis Quiz, courtesy of some of my colleagues in the media center.

Note: ATP and WTA players, active and retired, are all fair game. I’ve included the Chinese pronunciation to the best of my ability, as in some cases, nicknames are based on what players’ names sound like in Chinese. (Scroll down for answers.)

Who is known as…?

1. The Carrot (Ro-boh)?

2. The Zombie (Jiang Shu)?

3. Golden Boobs (Guang Jing Nai)?

4. The Monkey King (Ta Shew Shung)?

5. The Model Worker (Lao Mua)?

6. The Trojan Horse (Thua Lua Y Mua Ma)?

7. Big Ass (Lua Ta Pi)?

8. Husband of the Princess (Fu Mah)?

9. Big White Rabbit (Ta Bai Tu)?

10. Cabbage (Bai Tsai)?

11. Number Three Dua Zi  (Tsan Dua Zi)?

12. The Cow (Na Nhiew)?

13. The Czar (Sha Huang)?

14. The Colorful Butterfly (Khwa Khu Tia)?

15. Four Eggs (S’Dang)?

16. High quality Mud (Yu J’Ny)?

17. The Empress (Nhu Hoang)?






1. The Carrot is Tommy Robredo, because “carrot” in Chinese sounds like how Robredo is pronounced. I’m sure it was just a coincidence that he was wearing an orange shirt and orange glasses in his win over Seppi today.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.02.18 AM

2. As my colleague explained, The Zombie is none other than Andy Murray, known for his huge open mouth anguished screams and pasty white skin. Also known as Thunder (Rey Rey) for its similarity to “Murray”.

3. This one actually made me LOL. One bad gold lame outfit day and Bethanie Mattek-Sands with her natural “accessories” is now forever known as Golden Boobs.

4. The Monkey King is a cute, lovable character in the 16th century Chinese folk novel “Journey to the West” and bears a resemblance to Juan Martin del Potro, especially on his sexy unshaven days.

5. In a workforce as large as China, the Model Worker is a compliment and refers to none other than Nikolay Davydenko who in his heydey consistently played the most tournaments out of anyone.

6. Another play on names, The Trojan Horse (The Horse in Troy) is Viktor Troicki who lost in the Shenzhen Open quarters this week in his second tournament back. Check out the ShenzhenOpen.com site for my interview with him where he talks candidly about his year away from tennis.

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 2.23.14 PM

7. The Big Ass is Andy Roddick, so named for his habit of sticking out his derriere as he prepares to serve.

8. Since Martina Hingis is known as The Princess, Fu Mah is none other than one-time Mr. Hingis, Radek Stepanek circa 2006. I’m told that the honorary Fu Mah also applies to Ivanovic’s ex, Fernando Verdasco.

9. Another one of my favorites, Big White Rabbit is the now retired Marion Bartoli, so named for her penchant for bouncing in anticipation of the return of serve and not-so-slender figure. China, you’re mean!

10. Since “kohl” is German for cabbage, this refers to none other than Philipp Kohlscreiber.

11. OK. This one needs a bit of set up. In a famous Chinese TV series, there’s a comedic palace eunuch called Tsan Dua Zi, Tsan meaning “Three” and Dua Zi being the character’s family name. Three Dua Zi refers to Novak Djokovic who was stuck at the number 3 spot behind Federer and Nadal for the longest time. Bonus fact: Djokovic is also known as The Chicken (Tua Ji) because “chicken” refers to a new, up and coming, popular star and because “tua ji” sounds like “dj”, the first two letters of his last name.

12. We call him The Maestro, the Chinese call him The Cow, a reference to Federer being gifted a cow from the Swiss Open.

13. The Czar is none other than Marat Safin, kind of fitting now that he’s an elected politician, no?

14. The Colorful Butterfly is actually male. Twist! With insect eyes-like signature sunglasses, a colorful bandana and colorful shirts, Zee Papillon is France’s Arnaud Clement.

15. Okay, I didn’t get this one at first, but I’m told that Dang is a common kids’ nickname, meaning “eggs” or “balls”. And Four Eggs (S’Dang, say it fast) refers to the man with the similar sounding first name, Stan Wawrinka.

16. This one should’ve been easy. “High Quality Mud” in Chinese sounds exactly like Youzhny.

17. The Queen in any language is still Serena, although I’m told she’s also called “Shao Wei Dien Mu Shu” which translates to “Little Williams Lioness”.

So how did you do on the Chinese Nickname Quiz? Will The Zombie make it to the WTFs? Will Three Dua Zi three-peat in Shanghai? When will The Monkey King make his return?

For more on what I’m writing for the Shenzhen Open, including fun player interviews and match analyses, please see the News and Media section of www.ShenzhenOpen.com

23 Responses

  1. Peter
    Peter September 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm |

    This is awesome.

  2. kwando
    kwando September 26, 2014 at 1:38 pm |

    This is amazing. Those nicknames are great.

  3. Sunny
    Sunny September 26, 2014 at 11:32 pm |

    I’m quite impressed by the author’s knowledge about Chinese nicknames. As far as I know, fragility is the only reason why Richard is called tofu. Fresh meat is a common nickname for all the cute young players, not for a certain player. Besides, Pospisil maybe is too old to be called fresh meat. Coric definitely is. So is Zverev.

    1. Singular Matrix
      Singular Matrix September 27, 2014 at 10:49 am |

      Probably any young and cute sportsboy under age of 22 can be called “Xiao Xian Rou”, mostly teenagers. Pospisil is a bit out of the range but not too far away. He’s white anyway so he’s still “fresh meat”. Lacko is not well-known in China, so many people have no clue about his age.

  4. James Pham
    James Pham September 27, 2014 at 12:58 am |

    Thanks, Sunny. This was ALL from the other members in the media center, definitely not me. As you can see by my phonetics, I don’t speak Chinese… Lukas Lacko played Andy Murray last night, and even at 26, Lacko is still sometimes called Fresh Meat… Wonder what the statute of limitations is on that one!

    1. clara
      clara September 27, 2014 at 1:41 pm |

      In fact, I and many Pospisil’s fans in China have a great disagree of the calling “fresh meat” to Vasek, because he’s really out of age LOL. We just call him “shao bo”, which means little Po, Po is short for Pospisil. We think some tennis journalists just call all the players who they are not familiar with “fresh meat”.
      Besides, Djokovic has another popular nickname “nao lai”, which has a similar pronunciation with Nole. And “nao” in Chinese also means noisy or naughty because he is such an interesting guy.

  5. Jess
    Jess September 27, 2014 at 9:50 am |

    I’m Chinese, so I know most of the nickname. But I have never saw anyone refer to Kohlscreiber as Cabbage, he is always called ‘Chang Ming’, i.e.’the guy with long name’.(There is indeed someone called Bai Tsai though, Elina Svitolina, Xiao Bai Tsai.)

    Actually there is a thread on menstennisforums about chinese nicknames which has a lot more names, although as the site indicated, next to no women player’s are included

    1. Xylia
      Xylia September 27, 2014 at 11:18 am |

      Actually Cabbage is one of Kohlscreiber‘s nickname, I’ve seen people using it. Some of my friends, who have affection for those German-speaking players still use it. It’s just not as well known as ’the guy with long name’, and maybe a little more outdated. I have no idea where that nickname came from or is the article correct about it though.
      And the Chinese pronunciation in this article is, well, not sooooo good, I’m afraid.

  6. Singular Matrix
    Singular Matrix September 27, 2014 at 9:58 am |

    Great post!

    Radek Stepanek is now called “the FORMER husband of princess” for obvious reason.

    Kohlschreiber has another more well-known nickname, which is “someone who has a long long long name”. Blame the Chinese translation, which added too many unnecessary syllables to it.

    “Tsan Dua Zi” sounds so hilarious. “San De Zi” according to Hanyu Pinyin is much closer. But this one has been pretty much outdated too, since 2011.

    Finally a quiz to the writer, do you know who Ruya is?

    1. Jess
      Jess September 27, 2014 at 10:12 am |

      What about Stallion? Maybe to fill in the tennis player Zodiac(Chinese Zodiac of course)?

      1. Singular Matrix
        Singular Matrix September 27, 2014 at 10:18 am |

        LOL Stallion refers to Fernando Verdasco, nothing to do with Chinese Zodiac

        1. Jess
          Jess September 27, 2014 at 10:28 am |

          That’s two question…

    2. Caroline
      Caroline September 27, 2014 at 11:03 am |

      Ahhhh I like the question you asked
      The writer found so many nicknames of those famous players but only one disappeared

  7. James Pham
    James Pham September 27, 2014 at 11:05 am |

    Nope, no idea who Ruya is… Is there an English translation as a clue?

    1. Jess
      Jess September 27, 2014 at 12:19 pm |

      Hint 1: Ruya is a male
      Hint 2: Ruya is playing in Beijing

  8. Singular Matrix
    Singular Matrix September 27, 2014 at 11:19 am |

    Well, Ruya is arguably the most well-known nickname of a tennis player in China. I was wondering how you miss this one! On the other hand, if you do not have sufficient understanding to Chinese culture, it could be extremely hard to guess. A hint is the reply right above yours 🙂 Gook luck

    1. Deo
      Deo September 27, 2014 at 12:49 pm |

      Lol you reminds me of the famous thread posted on the Rafa bar
      Nadal is more “ruya” than Federer.

  9. Trophy2011
    Trophy2011 September 27, 2014 at 11:46 am |

    Ruya(refined man) was named by Nadal’s hater ironically, so perhaps it shouldn’t count…
    (It’s because a rafa fan had written an article said “Nadal is refined rather than Federer”)

    David Ferrer is called “Mr. Stability”(Wen Ding).
    Safin was sometimes called Hippo.

  10. RafaLint: September 27th - Nadal News
    RafaLint: September 27th - Nadal News September 27, 2014 at 7:56 pm |

    […] Test Your Knowledge of Chinese Nicknames for Tennis Players – by James Pham (changeovertennis.com) […]

  11. Elly
    Elly September 28, 2014 at 11:21 am |

    The people who like Nadal call him Dou zi. Other player’s fans who don’t like him always call him Ruya.

  12. karen shu
    karen shu September 28, 2014 at 10:40 pm |

    The fact is that the nickname Ruya is only used by those who hate the player so much and mostly if I should say are the Cow-followers. Actually we have a more active and neutral nickname for him, ie The Bean, since he is always running so fast and making unbelievable returns. So do not be fooled.

  13. FedEx
    FedEx September 29, 2014 at 12:03 am |

    A new quiz. A big 4 player has a chinese name “Guihua Niangniang”, who is he?

  14. Sholz
    Sholz September 30, 2014 at 12:16 am |

    I thought #8 was Andre Agassi!

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