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Chinese tennis star Wu Yibing motivated to inspire others

Wu also suffered several health scares – he was forced to retire from his opening match at the Washington Open after he collapsed on the court.

His return to Hangzhou for the Asian Games also saw him reunite with his parents for the first time in about two years.

But the world No. 98 is determined to continue, saying: “It’s all about trusting myself because before me and (Zhang) Zhizhen, we didn’t really have anyone to bring Chinese tennis to the ATP Tour level and I’m glad that I can be part of it and the kids can look up to us.

“I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing now and I just want to try to play all the tournaments as I should be with my 100 per cent.”

On the rise of Chinese tennis, Zhang told the Asian Games Network: “I think it’s not only because of the players, it’s because of the leaders, the coaches, we’re getting more professional. We know more about what professional tennis takes.

“There were always these questions being asked 10, 20 years ago – ‘Where’s Chinese men’s tennis?’ We’ve always been here. We never left, and we’re going to be good.”

HANGZHOU – On a sweltering Monday afternoon, all eyes are on Wu Yibing at the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre.

The partisan crowd is vocal in their support for the Chinese tennis player, with chants of “Wu Yibing, jiayou!” (an expression of encouragement in Mandarin) punctuating the air and cheers of delight ringing out with every point he won against Indonesia’s Justin Barki.

The Hangzhou native is back in his hometown for the Sept 23-Oct 8 Asian Games and the venue is not too far away from where the foundations of Wu’s career were laid.

In nearly two decades, Wu, 23, has gone from a four-year-old who played tennis at a place about 30 minutes away from the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre to a trailblazer for the sport in China.

In a milestone-laden career that recently saw him make history by becoming the first Chinese to win an ATP Tour title in the Open era, Wu is driven by one thing – inspiring the next generation.

He told The Straits Times: “I was inspired by the other players. If there is no one playing the sport, the kids will never notice there’s tennis or any other sport.

“When you’re a kid, what you get into is what you find more interesting. I started to play tennis when I was four or five years old in this city, like 30 minutes away from here that’s why I really want to be part of the inspiration for the young kids.”

Wu first got into tennis because his father Wu Kang, an amateur boxer, felt his son needed to get more physically fit.

He initially tried badminton, but quickly switched to tennis because the net was too high and he was unable to send the shuttlecock over.

Wu enjoyed a successful junior career, rising to world No. 1 in the ITF Junior Circuit ranking after clinching the boys’ singles title at the 2017 US Open.

He made his ATP debut in 2017, but the journey to his first title on the Tour has not been straightforward.

From March 2019 to January 2022, Wu was kept out of action with elbow, back, shoulder and wrist injuries.

Since his return, he has had some breakthroughs on the court. In February, he claimed the Dallas Open title after beating American veteran John Isner and two months later, he ranked 54th in the world, becoming one of two Chinese players to crack the top 60.

The other is Zhang Zhizhen, who reached a career-high singles ranking of world No. 52 in June.