Fitness A Priority For Wu Yibing In Return To Tour
Chinese teen eyes fresh start after injury-plagued 2018
Exactly one year ago, the future of Chinese tennis had begun his ascent. Teenager Wu Yibing was coming off an appearance in his first ATP Challenger Tour semi-final in just his fourth main draw, on home soil in Chengdu.
You might be well aware of Wu’s story by now. A historic run of fortune would ensue for the Hangzhou native. One month later, he would go on to become the first player from China to lift the US Open Boys’ singles trophy, which was immediately followed by another historic triumph at the Shanghai Challenger, becoming the first Chinese teen to prevail at the level.
Wu was surging up the ATP Rankings, peaking on the doorstep of the Top 300 in November, at No. 301. But as the budding Chinese star was putting the emerging tennis market on the map, his body waved the white flag.
“We planned to play more tournaments after I finished 2017, but my body has not been performing well since the beginning of the year,” said Wu. “So we took some time off and tried to recover and re-build my confidence. We put in a lot of time on physical training. My body obviously is getting bigger, so I am working to improve my arm strength, my core strength and fitness.”
A catalogue of injuries sidelined Wu for a combined four months thus far in 2018. After making his season debut at the ATP World Tour event in Auckland, he struggled to maintain his health. But with a new priority on fitness and nutrition, the 18-year-old is ready to resume his assault on the ATP Rankings. This week, he reached the quarter-finals in Chengdu, pushing top seed Henri Laaksonen to three sets.
“I still need to get more confidence,” Wu added. “I played at the junior level more than the professional level last year and it’s a completely different world. Opponents are much stronger here and there are a lot of high-level tournaments in China now. It’s important to get into this atmosphere and try to learn as much as possible.
“We need to focus on the details during practice in order to find my rhythm again. I have to have more confidence in my new coaching team and give myself more time to manage the new things they bring to me. I do believe in myself and in them.”
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That new coaching team Wu speaks of has been a signficant change this year. The teenager signed with IMG at the start of the year and the organization set him up with an entire new camp in his corner, including two fitness trainers, a technical coach and Sven Groeneveld.
Groeneveld has plenty of experience coaching at the highest level, having guided former Top 10 players Michael Stich, Greg Rusedski, Mario Ancic, Tommy Haas and Nicolas Kiefer, as well as WTA stars Monica Seles, Mary Pierce, Ana Ivanovic, Caroline Wozniacki and most recently Maria Sharapova. He will spend 20 weeks of the year with his new Chinese charge.
Read:Wu Yibing Visits Ancient Drum Tower In Ningbo
“I have to learn how to control myself on the court and Sven has given me a lot of suggestions during our training. But after all, I am the one who will put them in action. I am the one going on court and playing. Sven wants me to be more mature and take responsbility. I know am very lucky because I am a Chinese player, but he does not want me to see it as some kind of pressure. He wants me to be more relaxed and doing things that could help my tennis career.
“Also, I will spend most of my off-season training time at IMG Academy in Florida. I really like my new team. They are very professional and have a lot of experience. We are now more focused on the details and I feel my training sessions are more effective because of that.”
For now, Wu is focused on taking it one step at a time. After such a disappointing injury spell, he is not giving himself any ATP Rankings goals for the rest of the year. The teen believes that with the right mentality and physical state, the results will follow.
“I know I have some huge ranking points to defend, but I don’t see it as pressure. I think it will give me more motivation to do better. I know I am far from my best, but it takes time to find my top level. I want to show people my ambition and courage on the court. Even if I lose, it’s ok. I can only improve. I will play as many tournaments as possible when I feel my body can handle it.”
Russian to face fellow #NextGenATP De Minaur in the semis
Andrey Rublev may have missed three months due to a stress fracture in his lower back. But in just his third tournament back the #NextGenATP Russian looks as if he hasn’t missed a beat in Washington, D.C.
The No. 16 seed defeated home favourite Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-4 on Saturday to reach the Citi Open semi-finals, where he will play fellow #NextGenATP player Alex de Minaur later on Saturday. It is the first time since 1995 Buenos Aires (Moya, Mantilla, Corretja, Novak) that four 21-and-under competitors have reached the semi-finals at a tour-level event. In the top half of the draw, 21-year-old top seed Alexander Zverev faces 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas for a spot in Sunday’s championship match.
“It was a really tough three months for me,” Rublev told Tennis Channel. “I was not even thinking about how I’m going to play, if I would play good or bad. I was just missing being on court a lot. I was missing competing and finally I’m here, I’m in the semis and I’m really happy.”
Rublev is pursuing his second ATP World Tour title, after triumphing in Umag last season as a lucky loser. The 20-year-old, who has won all three of his matches this week in straight sets, was the top seed at last year’s inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Regardless of the rest of the week’s results, the four semi-finalists in the nation’s capital will be placed in the Top 6 in the ATP Race To Milan on Monday. Zverev, who competed in the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals, is in third in the ATP Race To London.
To advance to the semi-finals, Rublev won 82 per cent of first-serve points and saved all three break points he faced to move on after 74 minutes. It will be his first FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting against De Minaur.
Did You Know? When Rublev triumphed in Umag last year, he was the seventh lucky loser to win an ATP World Tour title and the first to do so since Rajeev Ram triumphed in Newport in 2009. Since then, Leonardo Mayer and Marco Cecchinato have also been victorious as lucky losers.
In just the second all-qualifier final since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990, Martin Klizan captured his sixth tour-level title, beating Denis Istomin 6-2, 6-2 at the Generali Open on Saturday.
Klizan won 78 per cent of first-serve points and converted each of his four break-point opportunities to secure victory after 68 minutes. The Bratislava native equals Ernests Gulbis’ record for most championship match victories without a loss (6-0) in ATP World Tour history. Klizan has now won four of his six tour-level titles on clay after success in Munich (2014), Casablanca (2015) and Hamburg (2016).
Klizan becomes the fifth qualifier to capture a tour-level trophy this year, joining Daniil Medvedev (Sydney), Mirza Basic (Sofia), Roberto Carballes Baena (Quito) and Nikoloz Basilashvili (Hamburg). Marco Cecchinato claimed his maiden title in Budapest as a lucky loser. The qualifier defeated two seeded players during his week in Austria, including home favourite and top seed Dominic Thiem in the second round.
Istomin was bidding to capture a third title in five tour-level finals. The 31-year-old, who lifted his second title at the Chengdu Open in September 2017, drops to 2-3 in tour-level championship matches.
Klizan wasted little time establishing an early lead, taking the initiative behind his second-serve return with heavy groundstrokes from both wings. The 29-year-old forced Istomin into a series of backhand errors with heavy hitting to earn a double-break lead before converting his second set point after 32 minutes.
Solid play from Klizan at the baseline extracted back-to-back errors from Istomin who, once again, surrendered his second service game of the set. Istomin manufactured two break-point chances for an immediate response, but, as was the case at 4-1 in the first set, Klizan escaped with a service hold.
The disappointment of missing out on a key service break soon told as Klizan broke to love in the following game, with great court coverage, to establish a double-break lead. Klizan relaxed from there, using a mixture of power and finesse to cruise to victory. The World No. 112 served out the match to love, forcing Istomin into one final error after a powerful cross-court backhand.
Klizan receives 250 ATP Ranking points and collects €89,435 in prize money for lifting the trophy. Istomin gains 150 ATP Ranking points and €47,105.
Did You Know? Both of Martin Klizan’s FedEx ATP Head2Head victories against Denis Istomin have come on title-winning runs as a qualifier. Klizan also defeated Istomin en route to winning the 2014 BMW Open by FWU in Munich.
Roman Jebavy and Andres Molteni lifted their first tour-level team title on Saturday, beating Daniele Bracciali and Federico Delbonis 6-2, 6-4 at the Generali Open.
Jebavy and Molteni won 75 per cent of first-serve points and saved four of five break points to overcome their opponents after 65 minutes. Both teams were competing in their maiden tour-level finals as a team.
“The atmosphere was unbelievable today,” said Jebavy. “It feels great to play in front of such an amazing crowd. We had a great week here, both on and off the court. This is one of my favourite tournaments all year.”
Czech Jebavy has now captured three tour-level doubles crowns, finally scoring his first tour-level trophy of the season after runner-up finishes in Lyon (w/Middelkoop) and Umag (w/Vesely). Molteni improves to 5-2 in ATP World Tour championship matches with his second tour-level crown of the season. The 30-year-old also emerged victorious at the Argentina Open (w/Zeballos) in February.
Bracciali and Delbonis were bidding to clinch their first team title in just their second tour-level event as a duo. The Italian-Argentine tandem reached the 2014 Casablanca semi-finals on their only previous tour-level appearance.
Jebavy and Molteni capitalised on errors in important moments to take a one-set lead after 26 minutes. Bracciali double faulted on deciding point at 1-1 to gift an early break and after another double fault from Delbonis at 3-1 (40/30), Jebavy and Molteni once again broke through in a winner-takes-all point to strengthen their grip on the match.
Jebavy and Molteni held their nerve on deciding points early in the second set, firstly to hold serve for 1-1 before breaking through, once again, at 2-2 to secure a third break of serve. From there, Jebavy and Molteni raced to a 5-2 lead, winning eight of the next nine points to edge towards victory.
But Bracciali and Delbonis refused to lie down, replicating their opponents’ points streak to force Molteni to serve for the championship at 5-4. Fittingly, a deciding point was needed, and, as had been the case throughout the match, Jebavy and Molteni came out on top to emerge victorious.
“We had a tough start today and were a bit tight in the beginning of both sets,” admitted Molteni. “I’m very happy that we managed to win our first title together here.”
Jebavy and Molteni gain 250 ATP Doubles Ranking points and split €27,170 in prize money. Finalists Bracciali and Delbonis earn 150 points and share €14,280.
Fabio’s Fabulous Hairdo Proving A Lucky Charm In Los Cabos
Italian will play for his third title of 2018 on Saturday
Fabio Fognini will play for his third title of the season on Saturday at the Abierto de Tenis Mifel presentado por Cinemex. And perhaps keeping his good-luck charm for the week will be the key.
On Monday, the Italian No. 1 posted a photo on Instagram of a new hairdo in Los Cabos, which the ATP World Tour’s Instagram challenged him to keep throughout the week. The Italian agreed, and he has won ever since.
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