Trailblazer: Wu Yibing hits a return to Daniil Medvedev on the 2022 US Open
Twelve months in the past, a despondent Wu Yibing was retiring with harm from a low-level clay court docket event in Italy, incomes a meagre 530 euros ($570) for his troubles.
Fast-forward a yr and 23-year-old Wu is his nation’s highest-ranked male participant at 59 on the planet and about to spearhead a landmark assault on the French Open the place it has been 86 years since a Chinese man final performed in the primary draw.
Wu won’t be alone when the season’s second main will get underway on Sunday as Zhang Zhizhen can also be assured a spot.
Shang Juncheng could make it three Chinese males within the event if he will get by the ultimate qualifying spherical on Thursday.
“The pleasure in China across the prime Chinese male gamers is palpable now and there may be sturdy media curiosity linked to the breakthrough of those gamers on tour,” ATP government vice-president Alison Lee informed AFP.
Kho Sin-Khie and Choy Wai-Chuen have been the final males to signify China within the French capital again in 1937.
Long overshadowed by their feminine counterparts, Wu and Zhang have been racking up a powerful sequence of ‘firsts’.
Wu was the primary Chinese man to make the third spherical of the US Open in 2022 the place it took world primary and defending champion Daniil Medvedev to cease him.
He took his new-found superstar standing with good humour.
“I’m a handsome man, I suppose,” he replied when informed he was the most well liked subject on Chinese social media.
Earlier this yr, Wu grew to become the primary Chinese participant to win an ATP Tour title in Dallas.
Unlike the small change he pocketed at Francavilla al Mare in Italy this time final yr, Wu is assured no less than 69,000 euros ($74,300) simply by enjoying his first spherical at Roland Garros.
A US Open junior champion in 2017, Wu, the son of a boxer, was sidelined for the most effective a part of three years from March 2019 to January 2022 with elbow, again, shoulder and wrist accidents. Covid lockdown deepened his gloom.
However, he quickly made up for misplaced time. In March 2022, he was 1,869 on the planet; in April this yr, he reached a profession excessive of 55.
Wu gained his first ATP Tour-level match on clay in Rome final week and has already added two extra in Geneva this week on his method to the quarter-finals.
Zhang, 26, is at the moment ranked at 70 and has but to win a foremost draw match in three makes an attempt on the Slams.
– ‘Sorry ladies’ –
He tried and didn’t make the French Open foremost attract 2021 however was defeated in qualifying.
This spring, nevertheless, he went all the way in which to the quarter-finals on clay on the Madrid Masters from qualifying, defeating three top-30 gamers in a row in Denis Shapovalov, Cameron Norrie and Taylor Fritz.
That made him the primary Chinese man to make the final eight of a Masters occasion.
Zhang was the primary Chinese man to interrupt the highest 100 in October 2022 after changing into the primary from China to play within the Wimbledon foremost draw within the Open period.
Despite their landmark Paris appearances, Wu and Zhang are a great distance from emulating feminine compatriot Li Na.
She was the primary Chinese lady to seize a serious on the 2011 French Open which she backed up by including the 2014 Australian Open.
Zhang was solely 14 when Li triumphed within the French capital and his reminiscence of that historic second is, by his personal admission, imprecise.
“I’m very sorry, I actually not watching too many matches from the women,” he mentioned in Madrid.
The breakthrough of Wu and Zhang is well timed following the pandemic and the fall-out from the Peng Shuai affair.
– China return –
In April, the WTA mentioned it might finish its 16-month boycott of the nation launched over considerations for the security of Peng.
The former doubles world primary has not been seen outdoors China since first making, after which withdrawing, accusations of sexual assault in opposition to a high-ranking official.
Earlier in May, the ATP introduced that the profitable Shanghai Masters will return to the schedule after three consecutive years of Covid cancellations.
The event’s prize-money pool will exceed $10 million, making it the richest sports activities occasion in Asia. The occasion is the final of 4 ATP Tour occasions in China scheduled this yr.