Wu wows at Open

Updated: 2013-01-15 22:44

By Sun Xiaochenin Melbourne (China Daily)

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Media have been used to pack the main interview room at the Australian Open for glimpses of either Roger Federer's stylish speech or Novak Djokovic's witty humor after their big winning nights.

However, a descent group of reporters gathered there just for a wild carder, who's neither from Australia nor produced major upsets, on Tuesday afternoon.

That might be rare in the past but has made common sense at this year's Melbourne Park as the little man in the big room, Wu Di, has made exceptions throughout his groundbreaking journey to become the new China face after the nation's first major singles champion Li Na in tennis world.

"Actually, I am still feeling nervous sitting in this position. It's definitely one of my many big maiden experiences this time," Wu told the crowded room wearing a grin as big as he appeared on local newspaper The Age after losing his major main draw debut to Croatian Ivan Dodig on Tuesday.

The close score line of the 194-minute battle (7-5, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3) boosted Wu's confidence but what has pleased the 21-year-old more was the elite reception he received during his Melbourne trip this week.

As the new darling of the 1.3 billion Chinese people in the tournament's biggest oversea market, Wu has been enjoying stellar treatment since landing Melbourne last Wednesday.

For instance, his fellow hometown star Li spend years before earning enough credits to live in the best hotel in town while Wu made it at his first visit.

Li signed an endorsement with the luxury hotel, Crowne, which located at the open-view south bank of Yarra River, after her epic Roland Garros victory in 2011 while Wu was provided a free stay in the fancy suits after claiming the Asia-Pacific Wild Card Playoff last September.

Eight years ago, Li started her first major journey in Melbourne from a compact apartment, which she shared with Zheng Jie and Peng Shuai, near the city's China Town.

Meanwhile, the media attention now and then has presented sharp contrast as well.

"After I won my first main draw match, I barely saw any reporters waiting there for me," Li recalled her first post-match press conference at the 2005 Australian Open.

"Now, there is so much interest on him and that's what I never experienced at that time," said Li, who reached the third round at Melbourne in 2005.

Li said her husband Jiang Shan was even grabbed by a foreign reporter last Sunday, asking for Wu's background, as they were "desperate to learn more of Wu" from any Chinese faces.

Major outlets like New York Times and Reuters waited in line to book one-on-one interviews with Wu while local newspapers putting him besides the Aussies prides Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic.

"All the surroundings and focus made me feel like a super star. It's a once-of-the-lifetime trip for me," Wu said.

International headlines have also made Wu a must-watch player for not only the local Chinese community but also the diehard Australian fans.

Wu's match against Dodig was arranged on court 8, one of the only four TV-covered out courts, where Aussies joined the Chinese to cheer for Wu while flying the five-star flags to inspire him.

The 1.73-meter Wu was even stuck by supporters for autographs and photo shots after the defeat as if he was the winner.

Another female ace Zheng, who also debut the Slam main draw at AO in 2004, felt jealous of Wu's warm ovation that she didn't have then.

"I can't remember clearly but it was not like the big support he enjoyed here," the 29-year-old Zheng said.

"Whatever, he is the first man and men's breakthroughs have been waited for years. So it's nature that he made bigger noise than us.

"Every time, we will face the same question ‘when will the Chinese men catch up?' at oversea tournaments. I am kind of happy that we don't need to answer any more now."

Obsessed for the limelight on the central stage, Wu said he is keen to return in a simple way next time.

"I know I should attribute all the special treatment this time to the history-making significance. I hope I can make it here again by my rankings and performances, not another lucky chance," Wu said.

Contact the writer at sunxiaochen@chinadaily.com.cn