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Wu Di makes history despite loss

2013-01-15 20:06

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 Wu Di's Profile

Wu Di makes history despite loss


Age: 22 (14.09.1991)

Birthplace: Hubei

Height: 5'8" (173 cm)

Weight: 146 lbs (66 kg)

Singles Ranking: 186

Chinese sports fans' long pent-up desires for a national hail were shattered when Wu Di,the first man from the Chinese mainland qualified for the main draw of a Grand Slam since 1959, lost his match on Tuesday in the first round of the Australian Open.

Wu, No 186 in the world rankings met Ivan Dodig of Croatia at his first Grand Slam main draw match. He had earlier said he hoped he could do his bit for the ailing Chinese men’s tennis team, but he was finally stopped at the starting line, after a loss of 7-5 4-6 6-3 6-3.

Despite his disappointing debut, the 22-year-old was especially pleased by the court-side support. The fact that he had got as far as the main draw match immediately brought Wu into the spotlight and numerous off-court activities.

Wu Di makes history despite the loss

The world No 186 was qualified via a wildcard tournament in Nanjing. Wu fought back from one set down before the world No.74 Croatian prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 and 6-3 in three hours 14 minutes.

Before giving Dodig the victory with a mistimed forehand, Wu saved two match points. He produced a superb second set against Dodig but his 53 unforced errors hindered his cause. Dodig hit 50 winners to 35 from Wu.

Wu made history for Chinese tennis and is keen to lead China's men out of the shadows of their more successful women's counterparts.

Unexpected warm welcome

Wu Di makes history despite loss
Wu Di of China poses during a visit to the Chinese Museum in Melbourne during the Australian Open January 14, 2013

Once 'crazy and lazy' Wu flies Chinese flag

Major media outlets including Reuters and the New York Times booked one-on-one interviews with him, and local newspaper The Age posted a large picture of a grinning Wu with a detailed profile on Monday to introduce the low-profile young man.

Reporters even surrounded the practice courts for closer glimpses of the Chinese player in scenes reminiscent of those of big names like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

The tournament's organizing committee even arranged as tour of the city's Chinatown to let him meet the local Chinese community, which is regarded as a major consumer demographic during the event. That has all been well outside of the 21-year-old's imagination, although he is fully aware of the significance of his presence.[More]


Foreigners cheered him

"I was shocked," Wu, who was mobbed after the match by fans wearing his country's red national flag, told reporters.

"In domestic tournaments, it's hard enough getting Chinese to cheer me on, let alone foreigners.

"But there were foreigners here telling me to 'come on!'. That was the first time that's happened, so I felt really happy to have that."


Wu Di makes history despite loss
Wu Di of China poses during a visit to the Chinese Museum in Melbourne during the Australian Open January 14, 2013.

Nervous debut with pressure

I felt very nervous at the beginning because this time was so different than my first time playing here, Wu told China Daily after practice on Monday.

Wu's first appearance at Melbourne Park was in 2008, when he reached the quarterfinals of the junior event, a feat that didn't draw much attention in China.

"I still remember the players' lounge was pretty empty during the boys' tournament because it was after the senior games. But now, all the lockers are booked and I occasionally meet big stars like (Andy) Murray," he said.

It's actually a bigger challenge to get my mind used to the atmosphere and the outside attention while remaining focused on my game.

"All this sudden attention is good for him," David Moreau (Wu's coach) said. "If you are nobody, people aren't scared of you. If they know, the young guy is coming from China and he went up 300 places (in the rankings) and he won the national championship and Open wild card, it's different. I want his opponents to know that. I want them to think this is a serious player and that they must not underestimate him.  [More]

To ease the stress of his Grand Slam main draw debut,  David Moreau even took him to Melbourne's China Town on the eve of his Australian Open debut.

Countrywoman Li Na eyes on Wu

Wu Di makes history despite loss

Li Na will be paying close attention to newcomer Wu Di.

Of course he will be a little bit nervous in his first Grand Slam, but it's a good experience for him, said Li, who cruised into the third round at her Grand Slam debut in Melbourne in 2005.

"He will play on Tuesday. If I have time, I'll watch him play ... I wish good luck for him."

 "Last night (Monday night) before I went to bed I got a text message from her," Wu said. "She told me:Don't be nervous. Don't think about tennis. Just go to bed. Your answer will be tomorrow, not tonight. So don't think about anything else.

See the hope 

"Even though I lost, I can see hope ahead of me, so I will keep trying to do better next time."

"I see hopes through today's match." said Wu. "And I will keep working in the future to reach the top 100."

  "But I really enjoy today's match. Every game, every set, except the result,"added Wu.

"This is my first Grand Slam and I'm sure it won't be the last."