ROME -- When Wang Xiyu first began to make her way on the Hologic WTA Tour, she made it a habit of traveling with a ceramic flute called a Tao Di, a traditional Chinese musical instrument. Back then, she was a 17-year-old left-handed talent, ranked well outside the Top 200 and slowly figuring out how to make it as a touring professional. She would practice the flute during her time off.
Five years on and Wang ruefully admits she has to leave the flute at home these days.
"I've been gone for a long time so the luggage gets bigger," Wang told WTA Insider in Rome. "I really want to play it but it's just too much luggage."
Her ever-growing luggage concerns are an apt analogy for where Wang finds herself these days as she eagerly takes on more knowledge and experience. Since making her WTA main-draw debut as a 16-year-old at 2017 Tianjin, Wang has gone on to win the US Open girls' title in 2018 and made her Top 100 debut in 2022. Earlier this season, she reached a career-high No.49.
This week, Wang is into the third round of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in her tournament debut. Currently ranked No.75, she has beaten two quality Top 30 players in her past two tournaments. She knocked off Bianca Andreescu in Madrid, then Irina-Camelia Begu on Thursday in Rome.
"[Begu is] really good on clay and also has been on tour for many years," Wang said. "So I was trying to learn a lot from this match. She's moving really well on the clay court and that's one of the things I need to learn from her. She's a great fighter and this is a mentality I need to improve."
Wang uses the words "learn" and "improve" frequently when discussing her on-court progress, and it's truly indicative of her sponge-like impulse to take on as much information as possible to become a better player.
"I believe there is no limit to learning," Wang said. "That is one of my beliefs, that life is to learn. It doesn't matter if it's big learning or small learning. The experience builds up.
"In tennis, you need to do technique, tactics, physical, mental, everything in the human body. It's very interesting. That's why I say it's a process to learn."
In February, she added veteran coach Nigel Sears to her team. Sears -- who has been at the helm for Amanda Coetzer, Daniela Hantuchova, Ana Ivanovic and Anett Kontaveit -- has had consistent success. Wang says she has relished his unending knowledge and experience.
"It's a lot of details about my match, my technique," Wang said. "Sometimes I feel like it's too much but I'm trying to do my best and learn.
"You need the technique to have the base to play the tennis and play the match. That is very important. So I'm trying to build myself from the basics to be more complete."
Sears' advice touches on every aspect of Wang's game, from the technical to the mental. She is particularly keen on improving her footwork. To that end, she's turned this clay-court season into an on-the-job intensive learning module.
"In today's match you can see she is also using a lot of spin and it's a really good shot on clay," Wang said. "It's a really good lesson for me to learn."
"Obviously there's more rallies on clay court than hard court and I know I need to I have to be more patient and more focused because the match is going to be longer. I think this is a really good point that I need to learn from the clay season.
"Sometimes the spin is really good on clay. I saw a lot of players use the spin very well to put pressure. I think I need to also learn from that."
In Madrid, she was courtside for her compatriot Zhang Zhizhen's historic run to his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal. Her presence was partly in support of her friend, but it was an opportunity to do some homework.
"I saw he was going through the tournament and I was so happy for him that he could do that really good," Wang said.
"When I watch the match I can also learn a lot from men's matches. For example, the footwork. It's more rallies in men's tennis. It's similar to women's, but different. They have more intensity. I learned a lot watching his matches."
As Zhang nail-biting three-set matches gained steam, Wang marveled at the sight of a stadium of Spanish fans chanting "Jia You" in support. It's something she hopes to see at her matches as well.
"It's cool because I can feel the Chinese culture is going more international," Wang said. "I'm happy when the fans are supporting us in Chinese. I can feel that Chinese people are going more around the world.
"I feel a lot of support. A lot of fans like Chinese players. I'm happy to see that."