Wu falls to Simon in Shanghai Masters debut

Wu Yibing said nervousness affected his performance during his debut show at the Shanghai Rolex Masters as China’s rising young star lost 3-6, 4-6 to Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Ti Gong

Wu Yibing returns to France's Gilles Simon during their Shanghai Rolex Masters first-round match at Qizhong Tennis Center in suburban Minhang District on October 8, 2017. The Chinese teen lost 3-6, 4-6.

China’s rising young star Wu Yibing said nervousness affected his performance during his debut show at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

The 17-year-old lost 3-6, 4-6 to Frenchman Gilles Simon in his first-round match on Sunday at Minhang’s Qizhong Tennis Center

“I know that Simon had not been having a good run recently, and thought I might have a chance today,” the Zhejiang Province-native told a post-game press conference. “But I failed to adapt to the environment and the court quick enough.”

Wu said Qizhong’s main stadium appeared to be a bit different compared to other courts on which he trained. Also, he said he was not able to concentrate enough during the match due to nervousness.

“His ball speed was fast. I tried to block other disturbances, and catch the chances when he was soft. I tried to return his serves deep and hang on with him on the baseline. I was not happy with my first serves today, which might have been affected by the amount of running around he forced me to do,” Wu said. “But for every match, the most important thing is that you have learned something.”

Wu entered the tournament as a wildcard after winning the ATP Challenger event in Shanghai last month. Wu, who turns 18 next Saturday, is the youngest player at this year’s Shanghai tournament and, for obvious reasons, he has been drawing a lot of attention, both at home and abroad, after winning the junior singles and doubles titles at the US Open last month.

“I don’t really care much about what other people think of me,” Wu said, displaying his maturity when asked if he feels any undue pressure because of the media and public attention. “Turning from youth to adult competitions is more about the mental condition. One should try to keep the same thinking mode.”

With age on his side, Wu undoubtedly holds a promising future. “For me now it’s important to get involved in the adult players’ circle quickly. I have been observing and learning from them, including details of how they prepare for matches.”

Also, Jared Donaldson of the United States scored an early birthday present in beating Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-4.

Donaldson, who turns 21 on Monday, saved all eight break points he faced. He broke Cuevas' serve once in each of the last two sets.

The 56th-ranked Donaldson plans to celebrate his birthday by going to Disney Shanghai on Monday, before experiencing a first career meeting against No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the second round.

Qizhong’s main stadium was unusually half packed for an early afternoon match scheduled at the beginning of the tournament thanks to Wu’s presence. The home crowd got behind Wu from the beginning, even though he lost his first two service games and was 0-4 down within 15 minutes. Wu then managed to a break of his own to make it 4-1 before Simon claimed the first set 6-3 in 34 minutes.

Simon broke Wu in the third game of the second set to gain the upper hand. Both players held their serves for the rest of the match before the Frenchman sealed victory on the second of his three match points.

“He missed some points due to stress, but (played some) very good shots especially from the baseline,” Simon said, giving high remarks to his young opponent. “He had a bad start, which helped me a lot. And it was close late in the match though I was ahead.”


Gilles Simon of France in action against Wu Yibing of China during their Shanghai Rolex Masters first-round match on October 8, 2017.

“He is only going to get better, and eventually hard to beat,” the Frenchman predicted.

Simon made it to the semifinals last year’s  before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray. In 2014, he reached the final before losing to Roger Federer.

“I have had good memories and good wins in Shanghai. Hope I can go further this year,” said Simon, who will take on eighth seed David Goffin in the second round. The Belgian is fresh off his title victory in Tokyo, where he atoned for his defeat in the Japan Open final last year by winning it on Sunday, beating Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 7-5.

The victory extended Goffin's winning streak to nine matches, including four in Shenzhen last week when he won his first title in more than three years. He lost last year's Tokyo final to Nick Kyrgios.

The Belgian stands at No. 8 in the ATP Race to London rankings. With the injured Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka ruled out, 10th place will be good enough to secure a place at the end-of-season showpiece.

Mannarino started slowly in his attempt to win a first ATP title. Goffin broke in the fourth game with a forehand winner down the line, and again in the seventh.

The Frenchman posted his first victory over a top-five opponent when defeating Marin Cilic in the semifinals. As in that match, he gained a foothold in the middle of the second set, breaking the fourth-seeded Goffin to lead 4-2.

However, Goffin immediately broke back, and again in the 11th game before serving out to love for the title.

"I've been serving well for a few weeks," Goffin said. "My second serve is really effective; my opponents don't attack me, so I'm ready to play the second shot."

Goffin has 33 hardcourt wins this year, joint-top on the tour with Nadal, who was playing the China Open final against Kyrgios later on Sunday.

Mannarino leaves Japan having equaled his 2015 career-best 28 wins in a season.

Also, Japan Davis Cup duo Ben Mclachlan and Yasutaka Uchiyama surprised hot favorites Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-4, 7-6 (1) to claim the doubles crown.

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