Melbourne: Wu Di enhanced China’s growing stature with a historic appearance at the Australian Open and Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm enjoyed a record-breaking victory on Tuesday.
Wu, the 21-year-old world number 186, went down to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig but he exited with his head held high as the first Chinese man to play a Grand Slam match.
“I’m really happy, but I lost,” smiled Wu, when asked if he was pleased with the way he played, revealing that a motivational text message from women’s star Li Na had helped him prepare for the match.
“The night before when I was going to bed, I got a text message from her. She told me, ‘don’t be nervous and don’t think about tennis. Just go to bed, your answer in the match will come tomorrow, not tonight. You will get your answer on the court’,” said Wu.
“I was happy with the way I played, but not happy that I lost,” he added.
China is increasingly in focus on the tennis circuit with the Women’s Tennis Association replacing Japan’s premier tournament with a new event in Wuhan next year - one of five on Chinese territory.
Tennis Australia is microblogging updates from the Australian Open on Chinese social media sites, and for the first time, a group of Chinese children are performing as ballboys and girls.
Meanwhile, Date-Krumm entered the history books as the Australian Open’s oldest female winner at 42, as she crushed 12th seed Nadia Pedrova, who is 12 years her junior, 6-2, 6-0.
“Of course I’m very happy to win today, but I don’t play for the record. Even when I’m losing, I’m still enjoying it. Of course, every time I lose, it’s mental, it’s tough,” she said.
“But still I’m enjoying playing. Forty-two, it’s just a number.”
Japan’s Ayumi Morita joined Date-Krumm in the second round when she beat Anna Tatishvili of Georgia 6-3, 6-3. Another Japanese, Go Soeda, also reached the next stage of the men’s draw with a four-set win over Australia’s Luke Saville.
Peng Shuai followed fellow Chinese women Li Na and Zheng Jie into round two with a comprehensive 6-3, 6-0 victory over Rebecca Marino of Canada.
“Today the sun was on the court, and the sun was really bright. On the court I felt a little bit dizzy,” said Peng.
“But it’s good. It’s really exciting to play the first round. I’m just really happy I won today.”
There was also success for Taiwan with Lu Yen-hsun reaching the second round of the men’s draw and women’s seed Hsieh Su-wei beating Spain’s Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino in straight sets.