Yibing Rides Winning Wave Into First Final
Success is coming sooner than Wu Yibing expected. The 17-year-old Chinese prospect only won the US Open junior singles and doubles titles less than two weeks ago in New York.
Now he stands one match away from landing his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title on home soil in Shanghai. Top seed, Chinese Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu, is his final hurdle.
And Wu realises how great a hurdle that is, with Lu’s 29-title haul making him the all-time Challenger leader. Lu holds a 20-3 record in Challenger finals since 2008.
“I played him last month in the Chengdu semi-finals, lost to him in the final set,” Wu said. “I know he is better than me, especially from the baseline but in that match, my serve and return were performing really well. I will get my mind prepared for the final, focus on my game. If he thinks he needs to change things against me, maybe that will be my chance.”
As the youngest Asian-born Challenger finalist since Kei Nishikori in 2007 (Carson, USA), Wu is already wary of expectations mounting. This week he took down second-seeded Canadian Peter Polansky and Japan’s No. 5 seed Hiroki Moriya en route to the semi-finals where he defeated experienced German Matthias Bachinger 7-5, 7-5 for a place in the final.
“I am more focused on tennis now. That’s why I am playing better than before,” he said. “I also can feel the support from all the fans, lots of them come here to cheer for me.
“That gave me extra strength to do better. To be honest, this is the toughest day for me since I got back to China [from the United States]. I am still fighting the jet leg, can barely sleep at night, but luckily it didn’t affect my matches.”
Win or lose Sunday’s final, Wu is set to make his ATP World Tour debut in this month's Chengdu Open. And as the best-finishing Chinese player in the Shanghai Challenger he has earned a wild card into the Shanghai Rolex Masters.
“I am very excited to play in Chengdu,” he said. “That will be my first ATP World Tour main draw match, but right now I will focus on [the] final.”
Did You Know?
- A battle of 17-year-old #NextGenATP vs. 34-year-old veteran, Wu is half Lu's age. It is the biggest age difference in a Challenger final since May 2016, when Karen Khachanov (19) beat Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo (38) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
- At 17 years, 11 months, Wu is the youngest Asian-born Challenger finalist since Kei Nishikori in 2007 (Carson, USA). Nishikori was six months younger at the time of his first final.
- Wu is bidding to become the youngest Asian-born Challenger titleist since 17-year-old Evgeny Korolev, of Kazakhstan, won in Aachen, Germany, in 2005.
- Wu is the fourth different player aged 17 and under to reach a Challenger final this year, joining Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime and Spain's Nicola Kuhn. All three won titles.
- Wu is bidding to become the fourth player in the past five years to win a junior Grand Slam title and a Challenger crown in the same season. Nick Kyrgios did it in 2013, Alexander Zverev in 2014 and Taylor Fritz in 2015.
- While Wu will be making his debut in a Challenger final, Lu is appearing in an unprecedented 46th. He is seeking to become the first player in Challenger history to win 30 titles.