|Wu Di of China attends a post-match press conference after his first round men's singles against Ivan Dodig of Croatia on the second day of 2013 Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, Jan. 15, 2013. Wu Di lost 1-3. (Xinhua/Bai Xue)
By Sportswriter Huang Jie
MELBOURNE, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- China's 21-year-old Wu Di made history by becoming the first Chinese man to have played a Grand Slam match although he was ousted by Ivan Dodig of Croatia in the first round at the Australian Open.
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.
While Li Na, who comes from Wu's home city, won the French Open final in 2011, Wu and Zhang Ze, ranked 158, are the only Chinese players in the men's top 350 for now.
"I see hopes through today's match." said Wu. "And I will keep working in the future to reach the top 100."
The loss also let Wu see his differences from world-class players.
"Dodig is quite a better player than me. The experience is more important than techniques," said Wu. "He showed how to deal with key points and that's the reason he won."
"But I really enjoy today's match. Every game, every set, except the result,"added Wu.
Li Na, who reached the second round after Monday's match, texted Wu the night before the match.
"She told me not to be nervous because it would only weaken me," Wu revealed. "Leave the answer to the court and find it by myself. Have a good sleep and forget tennis. That's what she told me."
After finishing his first Grand Slam event with a first-round trip, Wu hopes that he could improve his world ranking to qualify for the French Open, instead of playing with a wildcard.
"This is my first Grand Slam and I'm sure it won't be the last," he said.