Whole new ballgame

Updated: 2013-01-14 21:11

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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China's Wu Di faces vastly greater expectations in Melbourne, writes Sun Xiaochen.

It is not Wu Di's debut at Melbourne Park, but it is definitely his most important appearance.

Whole new ballgame

Wu Di of China serves during a practice session at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, January 13, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]

The world No 186 player, who will play his first Grand Slam main draw match on Tuesday, has already found his Australian Open schedule packed with various off-court assignments.

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.

"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. "The layout and visibility in the park might have changed a bit, but that's not the main thing."

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."

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