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Wu discovers net gains begin to pay off

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-10 08:59
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Chinese player continues advance up the rankings with victory in Dallas

Wu Yibing of China serves to Denis Shapovalov of Canada during the Dallas Open at the Styslinger/Altec Tennis Complex in Dallas, Texas on Wednesday. The Chinese upset the tournament No 3 seed 7-6(1), 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals. [Photo/GETTY IMAGES]

Three days after cracking the top 100 in a career milestone, China's rising tennis ace Wu Yibing stepped up a gear on his inexorable rise on Wednesday by reaching his first ATP tour-level quarterfinal in style.

Entering the second round at the Dallas Open as an underdog, ranked 97th in the world, Wu stole the show after he stunned world No 27 Denis Shapovalov in straight sets to secure his first quarterfinal appearance on the ATP Tour while going full steam ahead on his recent surge.

With the biggest win of his career, by the measure of the ranking gap, Wu is expected to at least climb to world No 90 on Monday to overtake 91st-ranked compatriot Zhang Zhizhen and become the highest-ranked Chinese mainland player on the ATP Tour in the open era.

After reaching the final at a lower-level ATP Challenger event in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sunday, Wu broke into the top 100 this week for the first time in his career.

"I've been playing great tennis the past few months," Wu said during his on-court interview after beating Shapovalov, 7-6 (1), 6-4, in one hour and 34 minutes at the ATP 250 level tournament in Texas.

"Hopefully I can keep playing good. Thanks for all the fans (coming to) watch, especially Chinese fans. I can hear you guys."

Opening the match quicker and steadier than his opponent, Wu soon put pressure on Shapovalov with an early break and held firm facing the Canadian star's comeback to run away with the tie-break in the first set.

Wu saw an early lead in the second set erased again, but the 23-year-old dictated the match with authority and poise beyond his age after he broke Shapovalov for the third time to earn a decisive 4-3 lead and followed up with two solid service games to close out the match.

"I did an early break and I can see he's not playing his best today. So that gives me more confidence on the court. So I could stay more in the rallies and do the things I need to focus on," Wu said of his performance.

Wu became just the fourth Chinese mainland man to reach the quarterfinal stage at an ATP tour-level event, following Pan Bing in 1995 (Seoul), Zhang Ze in 2012 (Beijing) and Zhang Zhizhen in 2017(Shenzhen) and 2022 (Napoli).

A more mature player technically and mentally, as he reckoned after the win, Wu has reset his season target to push for a top-30 break on the rankings.

"On the ATP Tour in general the level is higher especially that the guys have been playing for so long at a very high quality," said Wu, who first rose to international headline in 2017 by winning the US Open boys' title.

"So for me I need to catch up by playing more ATP Tour events to try to stay in the group with the best."

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