If you watched the Dallas Open final between American John Isner and China’s Wu Yibing, you’d never know that the players’ countries have been locked in a tense geopolitical drama over spying allegations, among other discord.
Becoming the first Chinese man in history to win an ATP Title, Wu Yibing co-created a masterpiece of a match, beating John Isner by the slimmest of margins, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6.
The breakthrough comes as the United States and China accuse each other of spying and as the U.S. shot down a Chinese balloon last week. The incident has caused the U.S. to cancel a diplomatic trip to Beijing in what was supposed to be a meeting between the two nations. The spying drama has captured national interest, with intense opinions across the political spectrum.
But you wouldn’t have known those tensions existed during this match, in which the fans cheered the American– for sure– but also respectfully clapped for Wu Yibing, who staved off four championship points before converting a 5th of his own.
There was no jeering, no booing. Only Wu’ing.
Isner fought hard, engaging in uncharacteristically long rallies. He had chances to put away the match, but Wu’s consistency ultimately drew forehand errors from the lanky American.
Isner is a noted American political conservative who found himself playing in the red state of Texas. But clearly, he sees Wu not as a guy from a country with a spy balloon, but as a fellow player and human being. Regardless of the chilly relations between the two countries, Isner praised the Texas crowd after the match, telling fans they were, “very respectful to both players, and we really appreciate it.” Isner then called Wu a “bright spot” in men’s tennis and complimented his tenacity.
“You’re, like, really unflappable, dude,” he said.
Isner, Wu and tennis have taught us something here, if only we’d look and listen.
On Super Bowl Sunday, as Americans yelled at each other over the wokeness or anti-wokeness of Chris Stapleton’s rendition of the National Anthem, railed online about Rihanna’s halftime performance and how it relates to former President Donald Trump and argued the merits of an all-female flyover, tennis rose above it all.
When you step away from social media, the online flame wars and the Twitter warriors, here stood two tennis players, locked in one hell of a great match. They looked at each other face to face, squaring off in person and not from behind a screen. What emerged from this meeting was respect. Humanity and respect.
Wu praised his opponent for a nearly-unreturnable serve and also thanked the fans. He is now ranked number 58 in the world, a new record for a Chinese man. The crowd in Dallas certainly appreciated his resilience and put aside any thoughts or rhetoric about U.S.-China relations. Now if citizens of the world could only watch this match and learn from it.