People

Boys' US Open champ new hope for tennis

People

Boys' US Open champ new hope for tennis

Wu Yibing, 17, became China’s first boys’ Slam singles champ by defeating Argentina’s top-seeded Axel Geller on Sunday. [Photo/Xinhua]

Wu Yibing served notice to the world on Sunday that Chinese men’s tennis is on the rise after capturing a milestone Grand Slam boys’ singles title at the US Open.

The 17-year-old second seed from Hangzhou became China’s first boys’ Slam singles champion by defeating Argentina’s top-seeded Axel Geller 6-4, 6-4.

“I think this is showing ourselves and showing the world Chinese boys can be good and betterļ¼¨and Chinese men,” Wu said.

Before Sunday’s victory, Wu’s best Grand Slam run was in January when he reached the Australian Open semifinals. He also reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

In doubles, Wu joined with Hsu Yu-hsiou of Taiwan on Saturday to become the first all-Asian pair to capture the US Open boys doubles crown, defeating Japan’s Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu 6-4, 5-7, 11-9.

“It’s a really happy (feeling) to win the doubles and singles here,” Wu said.

“And thank you to all the Chinese people here. It’s for China. It’s for me.”

Wu squandered six championship points in the eighth game of the second set before taking the title on his seventh opportunity when Geller swatted a forehand wide after 80 minutes.

“That was tough. My hand was shaking,” Wu said. “The only thing I could try to do is recover after that. I think I did well in the second service game.”

The doubles took its toll on Wu during the weekend as well.

“I’m a little bit tired from the doubles,” Wu said. “I just hoped to do my best. I just (attacked) the return and tried to do more rallies. I’m trying to give him pressure and try to cover with my volley.”

The only other Asian player to take the US Open boys’ title was India’s Leander Paes in 1991.

Asked about his career goals, Wu didn’t jump into an obvious reply about becoming China’s first men’s singles Grand Slam champion.

“Top 100,” he said. “Yes, the first goal. Easy.”

Asia’s most recent men’s singles Grand Slam title hope was 2014 US Open runner-up Kei Nishikori of Japan.

Past US Open boys champions who won Grand Slam singles titles include Australia’s Pat Cash, Sweden’s Stefan Edberg, the United States’ Andy Roddick and Britain’s Andy Murray.

Wu trains in China for Asian events and in Spain for European events. He headed back to China on Monday for a Challenger event in Shanghai.

“I play against the second seed I think,” Wu said. “I’ll try my best.”

Born in 1999, Wu is China’s rising star, giving the nation hope it may someday have a male player on a par with the two-time women’s Grand Slam winner Li Na to help develop the sport even further in the country.

Wu first tasted the excitement of tennis at age 4 in his hometown, Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

His mother, Wu Fang, said she took him to play badminton at a park, but the net was too high, so they decided to try a nearby tennis court instead.

“He was so young; all the players are older than him,” his mother told AP during the Australian Open in January. “When he played tennis, play some points, play some games, he kept losing.”

The boy started his tennis training before he entered elementary school, and an exception was made for his age to allow him to play for the Zhejiang provincial team in 2007 when he was only 8 years old. At 12, Wu went to Beijing to train at the Potter’s Wheel International Tennis Academy run by Carlos Rodriguez, former coach of Li Na and Justine Henin.

At the academy, Wu was introduced to another Spanish coach, Nahum Garcia Sanchez, who worked with him for a year before he returned to Spain to open his own tennis academy. Last year, Garcia Sanchez was hired to coach Wu full time.

“For me, the key is he’s very creative on the court. He can do things you don’t see in other players,” Garcia Sanchez said. “In a moment, he can change a rhythm, he can do this shot that I do not expect. He’s that kind of player.”

“He reminds me of (Gael) Monfils in a way, but more aggressive,” Garcia Sanchez said, comparing Wu to the French player.

After years of sharpening, Wu was world No 496 in Association of Tennis Professionals rankings on Monday. In January, he was ranked No 2 in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings. The best ranking by a male Chinese player was achieved by Wu Di, who was ranked at No 203 in July. He is No 219 now.

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