The first time Wu Yibing stepped on court to compete in an ATP Tour event was in Miami Open presented by Itau qualifying six years ago, when he was 17 and the tournament was held at Crandon Park. The Chinese player had just reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open boys’ singles event and was one of the top juniors in the world.
“I remember before the match I was talking with my coach. I thought I came here [playing] pretty good. I remember I played [Jared] Donaldson. It was a pretty tough match,” Wu told ATPTour.com. “I did a lot of preparation… He was playing very good at that time and I was still young.
“I couldn’t handle his ball and after the match I was sad because it was such a good opportunity to play Masters  qualies. It feels like a long time ago. A really long time ago.”
Donaldson won the match 6-2, 6-2 in 62 minutes. Wu went back to work on his game.
Six years later, the Chinese star is ready for his first appearance at the ATP Masters 1000 event since, and things could not be more different. Not only has his life changed immensely since that match, but it has developed significantly over just the past year.
This week last season, Wu was tied for No. 1,869 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings due to three years of injury struggles and the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now he is World No. 64. One month ago, he reached World No. 58, making him the highest-ranked Chinese man in history.
Wu is under a bright spotlight — especially back home — as one of the top young talents on the ATP Tour. But you would never know it based on how the 23-year-old carries himself, always walking around tournament sites with a smile, and often cracking jokes.
“I think off [the] court there is pressure. People have higher expectations and also me and my team [do], even my family [does]. But I think I’ll be okay because I don’t really see [those] things in a negative way,” Wu said. “If you want to be at the top, it’s not the biggest problem to worry about and I think I have the potential and I trust myself and my team, so things are going to work out if I do [things] the right way, especially keeping myself healthy.”
At his roots, Wu, who will play Kyle Edmund Wednesday, loves what he does. That passion helped him through the tough times and continues to motivate him today.
“I think I still love tennis as much as I used to,” Wu said. “Maybe sometimes I complained about the situations that I had, maybe I didn’t feel good sometimes and I started doubting myself. But now I don’t do that anymore because things come for a reason. You need to find the answer.
“Even when I played Futures or Challengers, I still enjoyed tennis. It’s not about winning or losing. I think some parts of the fun are not always about winning. You want to win. The winning feeling feels the best. But it’s also not bad to lose sometimes. It gives you more energy to practise, to become a better player or person. Nobody can win all the time. Sometimes it’s how you take it when you lose.”
That attitude has paid off during Wu’s rapid ascent. In February, he debuted inside the world’s Top 100. That same week, Wu became the first Chinese titlist in ATP Tour history at the Dallas Open.
The Hangzhou-native has come a long way since he was a junior with a poster on his wall featuring several ATP Tour stars including Roger Federer and David Nalbandian. Marcos Baghdatis was also featured, and the Cypriot recently began working with Wu.
The Chinese star also had something else at home: a world map. Wu drew a plane’s path on it from Melbourne to Paris, London and New York, noting the locations of the four Grand Slams. Now Wu is travelling the world as one of the best players in the world.
“It’s pretty funny,” Wu said, cracking a laugh. “I wouldn’t say it’s a dream come true. It’s more like hard work paid off.”