Fitness A Priority For Wu Yibing In Return To Tour
Exactly one year ago, the future of Chinese tennis had begun his ascent. Teenager Wu Yibing was coming off an appearance in his first ATP Challenger Tour semi-final in just his fourth main draw, on home soil in Chengdu.
You might be well aware of Wu's story by now. A historic run of fortune would ensue for the Hangzhou native. One month later, he would go on to become the first player from China to lift the US Open Boys' singles trophy, which was immediately followed by another historic triumph at the Shanghai Challenger, becoming the first Chinese teen to prevail at the level.
Wu was surging up the ATP Rankings, peaking on the doorstep of the Top 300 in November, at No. 301. But as the budding Chinese star was putting the emerging tennis market on the map, his body waved the white flag.
"We planned to play more tournaments after I finished 2017, but my body has not been performing well since the beginning of the year," said Wu. "So we took some time off and tried to recover and re-build my confidence. We put in a lot of time on physical training. My body obviously is getting bigger, so I am working to improve my arm strength, my core strength and fitness."
A catalogue of injuries sidelined Wu for a combined four months thus far in 2018. After making his season debut at the ATP World Tour event in Auckland, he struggled to maintain his health. But with a new priority on fitness and nutrition, the 18-year-old is ready to resume his assault on the ATP Rankings. This week, he reached the quarter-finals in Chengdu, pushing top seed Henri Laaksonen to three sets.
"I still need to get more confidence," Wu added. "I played at the junior level more than the professional level last year and it's a completely different world. Opponents are much stronger here and there are a lot of high-level tournaments in China now. It's important to get into this atmosphere and try to learn as much as possible.
"We need to focus on the details during practice in order to find my rhythm again. I have to have more confidence in my new coaching team and give myself more time to manage the new things they bring to me. I do believe in myself and in them."
That new coaching team Wu speaks of has been a signficant change this year. The teenager signed with IMG at the start of the year and the organization set him up with an entire new camp in his corner, including two fitness trainers, a technical coach and Sven Groeneveld.
Groeneveld has plenty of experience coaching at the highest level, having guided former Top 10 players Michael Stich, Greg Rusedski, Mario Ancic, Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer, as well as WTA stars Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and most recently Maria Sharapova. He will spend 20 weeks of the year with his new Chinese charge.
"I have to learn how to control myself on the court and Sven has given me a lot of suggestions during our training. But after all, I am the one who will put them in action. I am the one going on court and playing. Sven wants me to be more mature and take responsbility. I know am very lucky because I am a Chinese player, but he does not want me to see it as some kind of pressure. He wants me to be more relaxed and doing things that could help my tennis career.
"Also, I will spend most of my off-season training time at IMG Academy in Florida. I really like my new team. They are very professional and have a lot of experience. We are now more focused on the details and I feel my training sessions are more effective because of that."
For now, Wu is focused on taking it one step at a time. After such a disappointing injury spell, he is not giving himself any ATP Rankings goals for the rest of the year. The teen believes that with the right mentality and physical state, the results will follow.
"I know I have some huge ranking points to defend, but I don’t see it as pressure. I think it will give me more motivation to do better. I know I am far from my best, but it takes time to find my top level. I want to show people my ambition and courage on the court. Even if I lose, it's ok. I can only improve. I will play as many tournaments as possible when I feel my body can handle it."