There is certainly no lack of hype surrounding China’s Wu Yibing. It was a landmark year for the 18-year-old in 2017, after all.
The right-hander served as a practice partner at the Nitto ATP Finals, played his first two ATP World Tour main draws in Chengdu and Shangha, won both the boys’ singles and doubles titles at the US Open, reached the top spot in the junior rankings, and perhaps most impressively, claimed his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Shanghai — becoming the fourth player in five years to win a junior Slam and a Challenger title in the same season.
Capturing that trophy at 17, Yibing was also one of just four players aged 17 or younger to win on the ATP Challenger Tour. He beat Yen-Hsun Lu — the all-time title leader at that level with 29 triumphs — in the final.
But as the World No. 314 begins his first full season on the ATP World Tour at the ASB Classic in Auckland, Yibing knows that he still has a lot to learn as the opponents get tougher.
“I played two tournaments [at the] ATP [level] in China,” Yibing said. “I feel the level is a big, big difference than juniors. So for me the main thing is to try to learn from them, try to raise my ranking and help my technique and tactics.”
If the #NextGenATP star is looking to learn from the stars of the ATP World Tour, he is in luck this week. The youngest player from China to win an ATP Challenger Tour title will get to play one of the most experienced competitors on the tour in his opening match of the season: seventh seed David Ferrer.
The Spaniard (35) is nearly twice Yibing’s age and has played 1,068 more tour-level matches. Ironically, they share a favoured playing style.
“I like making my opponent move,” Yibing said with a smile. “I think this is one of my favorite techniques.”
Wu Yibing Takes It To Federer In London
It is safe to say fans of the ATP World Tour will get to see him do that for years to come. And since Yibing broke onto the scene with his US Open victory, he has noticed the uptick in attention.
“After I won the US Open, there was lots of media [that] came to me,” Yibing said. “It was like my life changed a little bit. But for me, I’m happy for this because this is also in my mind.”
Yibing is ready for the journey, but is not looking too far ahead. His focus is solely on his opening tournament of 2018. In a way, the fact that he is in Auckland playing a tour-level event is still surreal.
“I’m excited to come here,” Yibing said. “Even the flight, I was talking about [it with] my coach. It’s a little bit amazing that I can come here.”