24 Oct 2017

Wu Are You?

News Article

By Alex Sharp

Photo: Paul ZimmerWu Yibing (CHN)

Yibing Wu was just six years old when he first picked up a racket. Since stepping onto the confines of a tennis court, the local favourite and junior world No. 1 has flourished into one of the most promising prospects in the sport.

“I took up tennis to lose weight. I remember my first hit because I was about as tall as a racket, I could only just see over the net,” said Wu. “I was just a kid, it was all about fun, swinging a racket, it is still all about enjoyment for me.”

The fun factor of participating in a sport is crucial for his development and burgeoning passion for tennis. However, he has thrived in putting in the hard yards on the court to soar up the rankings.

The teenager’s breakout moment came in September when he scooped both the boys’ singles and doubles titles at the US Open, before clinching a maiden ATP Challenger title in Shanghai just one week later.

“Yes, they made me very proud because it’s the first Grand Slam for a Chinese male player. I must keep on the same path, keep working hard and keep moving forward,” added the ambitious world No. 329, who cherishes his recent haul of trophies.

“The US Open trophy was broken, so they will send me a new one, but the Shanghai one is already at home on the mantelpiece.”

Wu is tipped to join the upper echelons of the sport and is eager to learn from the golden era gracing the men’s game.

“The first player I remember watching was Rafa (Nadal), I can’t remember too much apart from that he ran so fast. It was amazing,” said Wu, wearing a Roger Federer-branded jacket. “I’ve met a lot of the top players. We don’t talk too much because I am shy!

“It was amazing to hit with Grigor Dimitrov at the Shanghai Masters, then I’ve also practised with Nick Kyrgios. His serve was so tough!”

In particular, Wu is keen to replicate the game style and tennis brain illustrated on court by three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray, who he studies in practice at Grand Slams.

“It’s his shot selection, the way he turns defence into attack, how he changes direction is incredible. I have met him before, very quickly, but I want to learn from him.”

Sporting prowess follows in the family, as the 18-year-old’s father is a professional boxer.

“He has been too busy, but I want him to show me the skills of movement in boxing. Hopefully one day we can train together.”

The spotlight and pressure keeps mounting on the talented shoulders of this Chinese prodigy, but Wu believes he can handle the heat after topping the junior rankings.

“It is now much more difficult to play a tournament because more people know me and my game. They can study how to beat me.”

Wu is imminently transferring from the juniors to the professional circuit, a daunting task for many, but he feels well equipped to tackle the main Tour.

“I think I’m ready, but I know I need to hit the gym hard,” quipped the 18-year-old. “Technique and game-wise I’m there.

“I think it’s more about getting used to playing on the ATP World Tour next year. I also need to practice more with top players to help me reach a higher level.”

Away from the grind of practice and preparation, the Hangzhou resident can strike a note singing. “I like Chinese music the most,” continues Wu. “I also love watching basketball matches on TV. Oklahoma City Thunder are my team as I’m a fan of Kevin Durant, but he sadly left to the Golden State Warriors.”

Wu will bring the curtain down on his junior career in front of home fans at the third edition of the ITF Junior Masters on 25-29 October.

“Chengdu is a great city, it’s my third time here and I have special memories. It’s great to play at home and I really hope I can play well and go far in this event.”

A formidable triumvirate will meet the top seed in the Shuai group, with Jurij Rodionov, Marko Miladinovic and Emil Ruusuvuori vying for a semi-final spot at the prestigious event, which takes place at Chengdu's Sichuan International Tennis Center.