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Di Wu Set To Make History In Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Di© Getty ImagesDi Wu won a wild card into the 2013 Australian Open and will become the first Chinese male player in the Open Era to contest a Grand Slam main draw.

After more than one month’s intensive training in France, Di Wu will return to China in mid-December. While he is looking forward to seeing his family and friends, and enjoying Chinese food, what he really can’t wait for is his trip to Australia next January. When he contests the Australian Open, he will become the first Chinese male player in the Open Era to feature in a Grand Slam main draw.

First of all, please tell our readers what your first name “Di” means in Chinese? Why did your parents choose this character?
Haha! Actually it was my uncle who gave me the name. I think it’s a very good name for a professional athlete, because phonetically, it means “invincible” in Chinese!

When you were a kid, tennis was not a very popular sport in China. So how did you get into tennis? Who was your childhood idol?
I was just in the kindergarten. One of my dad’s friends had his son playing tennis. I was not a very strong kid at that time; I visited hospitals frequently. So my parents asked if I wanted to play tennis with my little buddy. I always enjoyed watching Lleyton Hewitt play, and I also witnessed him winning the 2002 Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai!

How is your training going in France? What are you focusing on in the off-season training? Do you have any specific training program targeting the Australian Open?
I am training in a tennis club here, and we’ve put lots of effort into my serve and fitness. We have to play best of five sets in Grand Slam tournaments after all, and the summer in Melbourne is scorching hot, so I have to be well prepared with my fitness. Even on Sundays I have to climb mountains!

As the first Chinese male player to play a Grand Slam main draw in the Open Era, have you started to feel the pressure due to the attention from the public and media? What’s your biggest expectation or goal for your first Grand Slam tournament?
I hope that I can play to 80 per cent of my level. The reason that I don’t say 100 per cent is that this is just my first Grand Slam event after all, there will be some uncertainties and I am still pretty inexperienced. I am proud to be the first, but of course at the same time, I am also feeling the pressure. But I will try to turn it into motivation. Every athlete has to face pressure and I am no different.  

You have been to Australia for Hopman Cup, Davis Cup and ATP Challenger Tour events. What attracted you most to the country? What are your impressions of Australian people?
Australia always has a special place in my heart. My first junior Grand Slam tournament was also the Australian Open. Australians love tennis, and they are very warm and fair. In the Hopman Cup this January, even when I played against Hewitt, there were still quite a few fans cheering for me. Maybe they thought I am the underdog and want to encourage me? Haha!

When you first learned that the Australian Open would hold an Asia-Pacific Wild Card tournament, did you feel surprised at having such a precious chance? On the road to winning the tournament, which match did you think was the toughest one?
To be honest, every match was very difficult, but the toughest one was the final. I was just one step away from the finishing line, and naturally I felt nervous. I am glad that I become the first one. Hopefully the Australian Open will hold the wild card tournament every year in the future, to provide more opportunities to Asian, especially Chinese, players. 

Being 173cm tall, if you were to meet Ivo Karlovic or John Isner or any one of those giant players in the Australian Open first round, what would your strategy would be? Who is the tallest opponent you have played so far?
Haha! Almost every opponent is taller than me! However, we can always see shorter players getting wins over taller and bigger opponents. If I have to play with players who are taller than 2 metres, I will be very interested and excited to face the challenge. 

China has another Top 200 player in Zhang Ze. How is the relationship between you two? How do you feel when media and fans always compare you?
Making comparisons is just human nature. The relationship between us is really good. We have played tennis together since our junior years, we’ve been like brothers. He congratulated me for getting this wild card, and I also wish him the very best of luck in the qualifying tournament for the Australian Open

You are from the same city as Li Na. What is the most valuable lesson you have learned from her? How did she congratulate you on winning the Australian Open wild card? Will you train with her in Melbourne?
What I admire about her most is her perseverance. She is 30 years old now but still in the Top 10, competing with girls much younger than herself. She focuses so hard on tennis, from every minute of a training session, to what to eat and drink and when to sleep. She is just so professional on and off court. Of course she is very happy for me; she said finally we can play a Grand Slam tournament together! We probably will see each other in Sydney before Melbourne, since I am planning to play the qualifying tournament there. 

Can you introduce us to your playing style? Which top player’s shot would you most like? 
I am pretty solid from the baseline, and I move quite well around the court. However, my serve and volley still need to be improved. I hope I can serve like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Roger Federer? Oh, he is already the god in tennis, there is no room for me to imitate or envy him!

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