Wu Yibing came back from the brink to make history Sunday at the Dallas Open, where the fast-rising 23-year-old saved four championship points before downing John Isner 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 7-6(12) to become the first Chinese player to lift an ATP Tour trophy.
Before this week, no Chinese man had ever reached a tour-level final in the Open Era or defeated an opponent in the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Wu achieved both of those in one go with his semi-final victory against World No. 8 Taylor Fritz in Dallas, and he continued his history-making run in Sunday’s final with a milestone victory for tennis in his country.
“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.”
Photo Credit: Dallas Open/Alex Smith
After a bright start, Wu appeared to have faded in the face of a trademark serving barrage from Isner at the indoor ATP 250 event in Texas. The American held championship point on his opponent’s serve at 6-5, 30/40 in the second set, but Wu kept his cool to recover before sealing a historic victory in a nerve-wracking deciding-set tie-break.
Wu forced Isner to push a forehand long to clinch a third-set tie-break in which the first 22 points went with serve. He completed a remarkable two-hour, 59-minute win despite Isner firing 44 aces in the match.
“It’s a tough one to lose,” said Isner, who is now 16-15 in tour-level finals. “I don’t know how many match points I had, I’m sure it’s a lot. I swear I thought I won the match a few times. I know he hit one ball… It had to be [on] the back sixteenth of the line on one of the points… Sports can be brutal. I had match point in the second set too.
“It’s like he plays every point the same, so definitely no nerves," added Isner when asked about Wu's performance. "He gets a ball to hit, he hits it, and on this court it’s hard to hit him a shot he is uncomfortable with… He is an unbelievable ballstriker and a very good talent.”
Even after falling a set behind, Wu continued to strike aggressively from the baseline in his maiden tour-level meeting with Isner. His combination of power and accuracy brought him 41 winners, including seven aces, while the Chinese also won all 13 points he played at the net.
Wu, who did not compete on the ATP Tour from March 2019 to January 2022 due to a series of injuries, had notched just six tour-level wins prior to this week. Yet he showed no sign of nerves throughout his run, during which he defeated Michael Mmoh, third seed Denis Shapovalov, Adrian Mannarino, top seed Fritz, and Isner.
On Monday, Wu became just the second Chinese player to crack the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. Now he will rise to a career-high World No. 58 just one week later.
Isner, who pledged to donate $100 to the Isner Family Foundation for each ace he hit this week, finished the tournament with 138 aces, raising $13,800 for needy children in the Dallas area.