Wu Yibing made historical past on Wednesday night when he reached the third spherical of the US Open, turning into the primary male Chinese language singles participant to advance that far in match historical past (since 1881). No Chinese language man had made the third spherical at a Grand Slam since Wimbledon in 1946..
You’ll by no means realize it by how relaxed Wu was throughout his press convention after the match. When advised by a reporter he was the “hot-trending subject” on Chinese language social media, he reacted with a joke.
“I am a handsome man, I assume,” Wu mentioned, drawing laughs from the room.
The world is watching Wu, particularly his followers in China. It is a large second not just for Wu, however his nation.
The 22-year-old was not at all times destined for stardom, although. Wu’s begin in tennis got here as a way to shed extra pounds. His father Kang, a boxer, knew a track-and-field coach at a coaching facility. That coach despatched four-year-old Wu to a badminton courtroom for train.
“The web was too excessive, I used to be like half [the height] of the web,” Wu mentioned. “I couldn’t play that, so once we walked out of the ability there was a tennis courtroom and the web was decrease than badminton. That’s how I began.”
It was not precisely love at first sight.
“To be sincere I didn’t know what tennis was. I used to be too small, too little at the moment. We had I feel 15 little children [in a class], we practised collectively,” Wu mentioned. “What we did was simply hit a shot [and] run a circle of the courtroom as a result of we have been too many and we had just a few courts. That’s my first reminiscence of tennis.”
Wu was given an grownup racquet, which was nearly as large as he was. All he remembers is swinging the large stick round.
“I used to be like cleansing stuff,” Wu mentioned. “I needed to wipe all of the leaves on the bottom!”
By the point Wu was 12, coaches started telling his dad and mom he had potential. The very best a part of it for him was when he performed tennis he didn’t need to go to high school. However the budding expertise started to garner consideration. Zhang Bendou, the main tennis journalist in China, remembers the primary time he met the younger participant.
“The primary time I noticed Wu was in Shanghai, I visited an indoor clay courtroom the place Wu educated that summer time. [He was] 12 years previous, 14 years previous, I do not keep in mind precisely. They only advised me this child actually has some particular expertise and the whole lot about his sport is so fast,” Zhang mentioned. “At the moment I did not actually assume an excessive amount of of it, as a result of for the previous 15 years I’ve seen too many ‘proficient children’ and so they by no means made it. Nonetheless, Wu proved he’s actually a particular expertise.”
Wu received the 2017 US Open boys’ singles title and reached junior World No. 1. His countrymen, together with Wu Di — with whom he received a doubles match on the 2017 Rolex Shanghai Masters — noticed his potential.
“Yibing already acquired a lot consideration from many home coaches and consultants when he was a young person. His outcomes and expertise have been effectively recognised and he additionally made progress so quick. His understanding in tennis went above his age at the moment,” Wu Di mentioned. “I’ve recognized him since his teenage [years]. We acquired acquainted later after which we grew to become opponents quickly… As a young person, he has proven the potential of a future world-class participant.”
Wu cracked the High 300 within the Pepperstone ATP Rankings in March 2019, however he didn’t compete from March 2019 till January 2022 attributable to a number of accidents, together with points together with his elbow, decrease again, shoulder and wrist. Elbow surgical procedure was essentially the most critical situation of the bunch.
Whereas in China in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, Wu educated, however he additionally did different issues he by no means had time to do throughout his junior ascent. He discovered drive and even studied.
When Wu returned to the circuit this January in Mexico, catastrophe struck. He turned his ankle and was unable to compete once more till the tip of April. However as a substitute of getting down on himself — sitting outdoors the High 1,800 on the earth early this yr — he remained optimistic.
Wu has received 32 of his 36 matches in any respect ranges this season and climbed to a career-high World No. 173 earlier this month. If he stuns World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev within the third spherical of the US Open, he’s projected to turn into the highest-ranked Chinese language participant in Pepperstone ATP Rankings historical past (since 1973).
“Rating-wise I did not assume that a lot. I simply wish to get pleasure from each match I play at any time when I am on the courtroom. I will not begin eager about rankings, I’ll assume [about] what I do [on the court],” Wu mentioned. “[A] rating is only a factor. In the event you’re enjoying good, the factors and even the cash, it is going to come. I am not nervous about that.”
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Chinese language gamers Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen each certified for this yr’s US Open. Picture Credit score: Dustin Satloff/USTA
Whether or not Wu pays consideration to it or not, the strain will more and more mount the upper he climbs. Wu Di was the primary Chinese language man to play a match on the Australian Open and in 2016 he grew to become the primary Chinese language man to carry an ATP Challenger Tour singles trophy, making him one of many few who can perceive that strain.
“Prior to now few years, Chinese language males’s tennis has been a bit silent, however he gave all of us an enormous shock on the US Open 2022,” Wu Di mentioned. “The inner and exterior strain and a focus will make you distracted and it’s exhausting not to consider it, however Wu Yibing may be very mature and calm in dealing with it. Everybody has paid particular consideration to his development since he was a teen.”
It has not been a simple highway for Wu from the highest of the juniors to the highest of the ATP Tour, however the Chinese language star is now incomes the rewards for his exhausting work. The most important change for him has been having fun with the game and the journey extra since his return.
“I’m joyful I’m nonetheless enjoying tennis and having fun with tennis. I feel that is actually good I can hold my passions for tennis regardless that I used to be hurting dangerous,” Wu mentioned. “I feel this [is] not simple to do. However I am glad I made it.”