25 Oct 2017

2017 ITF Junior Masters: Who's who

News Article

Photo: Arata YamaokaYibing Wu (CHN)

In the build up to this year’s ITF Junior Masters, we are introducing the players who will compete in Chengdu. Our final article takes a closer look at the top seed in the boys’ draw, Yibing Wu of China.

Wu made his junior debut in the same city that he will contest his final junior event this week. Having been handed a wildcard into a Grade 4 event in Chengdu as a 14-year-old in March 2014, he reached the second round of the singles draw and the quarterfinals in doubles.

His first semifinal came later that year. As a qualifier, Wu reached the semifinals of a Grade 5 event in Korea, Republic. He dropped one set on his way to the semis, but could not reach the final, falling to Hong Seong Chan, who claimed the ITF Junior Masters title last year.

Wu’s first title came in doubles. Playing alongside Zhou Xu Fan, the Chinese duo did not drop a set as they claimed a Grade 5 title in China. The very next week, Wu claimed his first singles title. At another Grade 5 event in China, he dropped just one set on his way to lifting the title.

After claiming more titles at the lower-ranked events, in August 2014, Wu stepped up to Grade 1 level for the first time, and was not overwhelmed, reaching the third round in singles and the semifinals in doubles, and in October 2014, he contested his first Grade A event at the Osaka Mayor’s Cup in Japan, reaching the second round of both singles and doubles.

Wu started 2015 in emphatic fashion, winning his first Grade 3 title in his opening tournament of the year. He was handed a wildcard into the Junior Australian Open, his first taste of tennis at a Junior Grand Slam, but fell in the opening round in singles and the second round in doubles.

His impressive performances throughout the first half of the year earned him a spot in the qualifying draw at Junior Roland Garros, but a first major victory still eluded him, as he lost in the first round. He also fell in the opening round of Junior Wimbledon qualifying, but reached the second round of the main draw in doubles.

In August 2015, he booked a spot in his first Grade 1 final, reaching the title match at an event in Nanjing. However, the title proved a step too far as he fell in the decider to Alberto Lim. At the Junior US Open in September, Wu earned his first win in qualifying at a major, but still could not reach the main draw.

A series of strong showings at the Grade 1 events at the end of the year, including a quarterfinal run at the prestigious Eddie Herr tournament, earned Wu a spot in the Junior Australian Open main draw at the start of 2016, but he fell in three sets in the first round to Blake Ellis.

Not to be disheartened, Wu won his first Grade 1 title in his next tournament, and followed it up with a second shortly after. In May last year, he earned his first win at a junior major when he reached the second round at Junior Roland Garros, defeating Jay Clarke in the opener, and also reached the second round at Junior Wimbledon.

In October and November, Wu won three consecutive titles, and then made a run to his first Grade A final at the Orange Bowl. He defeated Sebastian Baez, one of his opponents in Chengdu this week, in a tough three-set semifinal, but fell to Miomir Kecmanovic, who played in Chengdu last year and finished the year as the ITF’s Junior World Champion, in the final.

At the start of 2017, Wu recorded back-to-back wins at a Junior Grand Slam for the first time at the Junior Australian Open. In fact, he went on to reach the semifinals, falling in three sets to Yshai Oliel. Injury ruled him out for a few months, but he returned just before Junior Wimbledon, where he reached the quarterfinals, losing to eventual champion Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

His crowning glory in 2017 was the US Open. As No. 2 seed in the boys’ Yibing Wu (CHN)singles draw, he breezed through to the quarterfinals, where he came back from a set down to defeat Oliver Crawford. He did the same again in the semifinals, this time saving match points against Emil Ruusuvuori, a competitor this week in Chengdu, to win 46 63 76(4). In the final he faced top seed Axel Geller, another competitor in this year’s ITF Junior Masters. There was no third set required as Wu won 64 64 to become the first Chinese boy to win a Grand Slam title.

Not content with one trophy in New York, Wu went on to win the doubles with Hsu Yu Hsiou, who is also competing in Chengdu this week.

On the ITF Pro Circuit, Wu made his debut as a 15-year-old in April 2015 at a Futures event in China. He came through qualifying to reach the main draw but fell in three sets in the opening round.

His first main draw victory came in his third tournament. Having been handed a wildcard into a Futures event in China in February 2016, Wu defeated Hung Jui-Chen in the opening round, but fell in the second.

He was given a wildcard into qualifying for the Guangzhou Challenger (CHN) in March 2016 but failed to reach the main draw. A few months later, in August, he made his main draw debut at Challenger level, but fell in the first round to Janko Tipsarevic.

He earned a first Challenger-level win in October, saving match points to defeat Kwon Soon Woo 67(0) 76(10) 64 in the opening round of the Ningbo Challenger (CHN) but lost to Hyeon Chung in the second round.

In February 2017, Wu made his Davis Cup by BNP Paribas debut for China. Facing Jason Jung of Chinese Taipei, the match went to a deciding fifth set. Having already saved match points, Wu proved he had the physical abilities to make it at the top level as Jung was forced to retire trailing 61 46 57 76(9) 4-1, handing the Chinese youngster his first five-set victory at the first attempt.

Not long after that, in March this year, Wu reached his first professional final. As a wildcard at a Futures event in China, Wu won his opening three matches without dropping a set. He then defeated Marco Bortolotti in three sets to reach the final. His opponent in the title match was Serbian Danilo Petrovic, and when Wu recorded a 64 76(6) win, he had his first professional trophy.

Later that month, he made his first appearance at an ATP event when handed a wildcard into qualifying at Miami, but fell to Jared Donaldson before he could make the main draw.

In August he set a new career-best performance at Challenger level, reaching the semifinals of the Chengdu Challenger (CHN), but fell in the last four to Yen-Hsun Lu in three sets.

That record did not last long. Fresh off the back of his Junior US Open victory, Wu was handed a wildcard into the Shanghai Challenger (CHN). He stormed through the field, reaching the final without dropping a set. In the final, he faced off against Lu again. After clinching a tight first set, Lu was forced to retire and Wu had his first Challenger title.

Since then, Wu has gone on to make his first appearances in an ATP main draw, but after losing to Thiago Monteiro at the Chengdu Open and Gilles Simon at Shanghai, he is still on the hunt for his first ATP Tour-level victory.

The 2017 ITF Junior Masters, which will be Wu’s last junior event, will take place at the Sichuan International Tennis Center in Chengdu, China on 25-29 October.