Feb 13 (Reuters) – Wu Yibing became the first man from China to win an ATP title on Sunday as he held off home hero John Isner 6-7(4) 7-6(3) 7-6(12) in a thrilling final to claim the Dallas Open.
China’s men have barely made an impression in tennis’s elite circuit but 23-year-old Wu’s breakthrough could inspire generations to come in the East Asian nation.
Before this week, no Chinese man had ever reached a tour-level final in the professional era or defeated a top 10 opponent.
Wu, from the eastern city of Hangzhou, has done both, having upset American world number eight Taylor Fritz in the semi-finals in Dallas.
“I made history here for my country and for my home,” said Wu at the trophy ceremony.
“I’m very proud of myself and especially thanks to all the fans and my team who came here to support.
“I couldn’t do this without any of you guys.”
Against Isner, a hardened tour professional with 16 titles and one of the game’s most feared serves, Wu had to earn the right to create history.
Isner hammered 44 aces and held match point as Wu served to stay in the second set at 6-5.
After 22 consecutive points went with serve in the final tiebreak, Wu forced Isner to push the ball long, claiming the match a minute short of three hours.
“I don’t know how many match points I had, I’m sure it’s a lot,” said Isner.
“I swear I thought I won the match a few times … Sports can be brutal.
“He is an unbelievable ballstriker and a very good talent.”
On Monday Wu became the second Chinese man to crack the world top 100 and is now projected to rise to 58.
Though showing promise as a junior, Wu has had to be patient through a run of injuries that saw him drop off all tennis circuits in 2020-21.
Ranked outside the top 1,000 last April, Wu qualified for the U.S. Open and won two main draw matches, becoming the first Chinese man to reach the third round of a Grand Slam since 1938.
China’s women have had far more success in elite tennis, with the retired Li Na becoming the country’s first Grand Slam singles winner at Roland Garros in 2011 and adding another major title at the Australian Open in 2014.
But a new generation of men’s players are starting to make their mark, including world number 92 Zhang Zhizhen and 18-year-old Shang Juncheng, who became the first Chinese man in the professional era to win a main draw match at last month’s Australian Open.