Wu Yibing is gearing up to meet defending champion Daniil Medvedev in New York
World number one Daniil Medvedev will be facing an opponent who has made history at the US Open when he faces China’s Wu Yibing in the third round at Flushing Meadows on Friday night.
Though the world 174 might not be considered among the biggest threats posed to the defending champion at the tournament, Wu has already won plaudits for what he has achieved in the Big Apple.
Until Wu and compatriot Zhang Zhizhen both won their qualifiers last week, no male Chinese tennis player had ever reached the US Open’s main draw in the Open Era.
Wu has since gone further, breaking records by becoming the first Chinese man to win a Grand Slam singles match for 63 years by seeing off Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round.
He then defeated another qualifier, Nuno Borges, in a four-hour nailbiter to become the first Chinese man to reach the third round at the US Open since the tournament was founded in 1881.
As for Grand Slams overall, no Chinese man has reached the third round of a major tennis competition since Kho Sin-Khie did so at Wimbledon in 1946.
None of this is lost on the 22-year-old Wu, who at the same time is not overwhelmed by the scale of his achievements.
“I think if there is a first time, there is going to be a second time, a third time. I’m happy that I’m the first guy to make it [in] history,” Wu explained to reporters.
“But the more important [thing] is this bringing hope to all the Chinese fans and the kids so we can have more great players in our country, which I think we should have had a long time ago.”
Wu is no stranger to success in New York, however, having won the the boys’ singles title at the US Open in 2017.
His progress then hampered by wrist and elbow injuries and Covid-influenced travel restrictions, he is just happy to be playing the sport he loves again.
“The junior US Open Chinese history-maker awaits for Russian world number one really gave me that confidence that I can play tennis on the men’s world [tour] also,” he said, reflecting on the past few years.
“[I] got unlucky, [I] got hurt a little bit.
“[But] I’m happy I’m still playing tennis and enjoy tennis. I think this is really good [that] I can keep my passion for tennis even though I was hurting bad. I think this [is] not easy to do but I’m glad I made it.”
Though he is a record-setter and inspiration to millions in his homeland, Wu said that there is “no time for celebrations yet” given the “tough opponent” he has in the form of 2021 champion Medvedev.
“That’s my mindset. I’m here to play the tournament. When the tournament finishes, we do parties, but not during the tournament,” Wu added.
As for Medvedev, the 26-year-old said that he was “looking forward to the next round” after beating Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 7-5, 6-3 on Wednesday, to reach the third stage at the US Open for the fifth consecutive year.
The 6ft 6in Russian has won 20 of his past 22 matches on the hard courts of Flushing Meadows, having also reached the final in 2019, but is not taking anything for granted.
“The most important is to win, to stay in the tournament, to try to get as far as possible, [and] for sure try to raise your level when the opponents go stronger and stronger,” Medvedev said, with a round-of-16 meeting with Kyrgios possible, should he see off Wu.
“Finally you’re going to play somebody who has a Grand Slam or something like this.”
As for Wu, Medvedev said of his opponent that “he seems to play great. I am expecting a tough match,” in what will be the pair’s first ever meeting.
Win or lose, Wu is already guaranteed to leave New York having made history.