08 Jul 2017

Yibing Wu eases into Wimbledon second round

News Article

By Clive White

Photo: Susan MullaneYibing Wu (CHN)

WIMBLEDON: Jack Draper, the young British hope, wasn’t the only one who found it difficult to keep up with Yibing Wu, the Chinese No2 seed, when the boys’ and girls’ competitions got under way at the All England Club on Saturday.

Answers to questions came back as quickly as the returns of Draper’s serve and in perfect English. Wu said he was here to win the event and if the number of Chinese journalists present at his after-match press conference was anything to go by his country expects him to also. Never mind big in Japan, Wu is huge in China.

Judging by the way he beat the son of the Lawn Tennis Association’s former chief executive 63 62 in 51 minutes it isn’t just his ranking of 666 which may spread fear throughout the field here.

“He’s just a very good ball machine” was how Draper put it. “He makes a lot of balls and hits pinpoint serves. He seemed to be in his element. I found the occasion pretty tough to deal with.”

At some two and a half years Wu’s junior it perhaps wasn’t surprising that the 15-year-old Draper found himself a little out of his depth. The Briton reckons he has grown six inches in the last year and said it had been predicted he would end up as a lofty 6ft 3in.

“I don’t play much on grass,” he said. “I think when I’m older and bigger I’ll be a bit better on it.”

Asked if his father was watching he replied: “No, he wasn’t, maybe on the live scores. He’s been a big part of my tennis life, but I’ve got other people around me now, like my mum.”

A couple of the top seeds went out – the boys’ No3 Zsombor Piros, Hungary’s junior Australian Open champion, and the girls’ No4 Elena Rybakina, of Russia. She lost to the American Ellie Douglas, who had to overcome a nasty feeling of déjà vu to win 64 36 63.

After winning the first set Douglas managed to lose the second from 30 and love-40 up. To suggest there was a momentum shift was an understatement.

To make matters worse the 17-year-old from McKinney, Texas had lost to the same girl in Italy a month ago after being 52 up in the third set when she had two match points. Not only that she had lost in the first round at Roland Garros after holding a 53 lead in the third set.

“I said to myself, ‘Okay Ellie you’re not doing this again’. I don’t know how many match points I had this time, maybe five. It was huge for me.”

Not for nothing does she wear a necklace around her neck bearing the word “Believe”, which her mother bought for her.  

“It’s the most important word, I need to believe in myself and if I do that nothing can stop me," she said with plenty of conviction. "It’s my first time on grass and I love Wimbledon , the crowd, everything, it’s just awesome and it suits my game perfectly because I’m aggressive and it’s more for strike tennis, the ball stays low. I really like it.”

One very happy customer, as were the No1 seeds, Whitney Osuigwe, of the United States, in the girls’ event and Corentin Moutet, of France, in the boys’ event, both of whom went through fairly comfortably in straight sets in their first-round matches.

Osuigwe, whose lithesome build oozes adaptability, won the junior French Open last month at the tender age of just 15 years and two months. Perhaps she can give Moutet a tip. The left-hander, who has been given a wild card here, is a big Rafael Nadal fan but went out in the second round at Roland Garros this year. As the 18-year-old from Neuilly-sur-Seine, a commune near the French capital, remarked: “It’s hard for a French player to play in Paris, there is a lot of pressure.”