Challenger #NextGenATP First-Time Winner: Wu Yibing
There are more than one billion people in China, but none are smiling as brightly as Wu Yibing. The 17 year old is redefining the Asian tennis landscape with every victory and on Sunday he notched another significant milestone, scoring his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Shanghai.
Just seven days after lifting the US Open junior trophy, Yibing made history on home soil in becoming the youngest Chinese champion on the Challenger circuit. He claimed victory when Yen-Hsun Lu was forced to retire with a right shoulder injury after the first set (won by Yibing in a tie-break).
Yibing's run to the title was as momentous as it was dominant. The Hangzhou native did not drop a set all week and will rise 176 spots to a career-high No. 320 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. He is the 12th teeange winner of the year and fourth aged 17 & under, joining Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nicola Kuhn.
For years, China has been in search of a rising star on the ATP World Tour, as tennis continues to grow in popularity in the sporting-rich nation. They hope the search ends with Yibing, who is fast becoming a household name. According to the South China Morning Post, thfe 17-year-old's victory in New York received 43 seconds of coverage on Xinwen Lianbo, China's flagship news programme. In comparison, basketball legend Yao Ming's retirement earned 53 seconds and the only individual sporting success to garner more than a minute was WTA star Li Na's victory at Roland Garros.
Yibing is the fourth player in the past five years to win a junior Grand Slam title and ATP Challenger Tour crown in the same season. He joins Nick Kyrgios (2013), Alexander Zverev (2014) and Taylor Fritz (2015).
The Chinese teen will introduce himself to the ATP World Tour when he makes his debut at the Chengdu Open, beginning 25 September.
Yibing spoke to ATPWorldTour.com following his victory on Sunday...
How does it feel to win your first Challenger title?
For sure I am happy with my performance this week. Not only because of the title, but I am also satisfied with the way I played. I am proud of that.
You did not drop a set entering the final and just beat the top seed. What went right for you?
I think mentally I am doing really well, because I just traveled back to Shanghai from New York. The jet lag issue from my body did not effect my match. My team also gave me lots of positive energy. They all believe I can do this and I actually did.
What did you take from the match against Lu at the Chengdu Challenger that helped you today?
I absorbed lots of things from that match, not only confidence. For today, I felt I could read his serve better. He served many aces the last time. In the beginning, I thought I was not patient enough from the baseline. But I kept myself calm and got back to the match after being 3-5 down in first set.
What did you enjoy most about playing in Shanghai? How nice is it to win at home?
The most enjoyable thing is I got so many fans to come on site and support me. It gave me extra strength to do better. I didn’t think too much about winning this title in Shanghai. I just hope from now on, there will be more to come.
This is just your fifth Challenger main draw. Did you expect success to come so quickly?
I believe if I do every step right and work hard, good the results will come along.
Do you hope your success inspires others to pick up a racquet in China?
I actually thought about this the other day. I hope with my good performance, I will show the right path for young Chinese players how to turn pro. Hopefully they will have more parents encourage kids to pick up raquets and try to become a professional tennis player.
You joined Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nicola Kuhn as the only 17 year old winners this year. How much has their success driven you?
Yes it has. And I'm actually close to Felix. He won the US Open title at 16, that’s so impressive. We played a couple times in juniors. I think from the baseline we are at a similar level. But he is way better on serve and sometimes I feel hopeless when we play together just because his serve is so strong. But he has shown why he is doing so well this year. I am not going to just imitate him. I would prefer to just focus on myself and find my own path.
What are your goals for the rest of the year?
I will keep my original goal which is get into the Top 300 [of the Emirates ATP Rankings]. I don’t want to rush into anything just because I played well this week. Step by step.
How exciting is it to make your ATP World Tour debut at the Chengdu Open?
I am very excited to play in Chengdu. That will be my first ATP World Tour main draw match. I am grateful for this opportunity. I want to learn from the best.