Wu Di has regrets but determined to make amends in Shanghai

Chinese tennis star Wu Di prepared for the forthcoming ATP Shanghai 1000 Rolex Masters by acknowledging he does have some early regrets in his career.

Chinese tennis star Wu Di prepared for the forthcoming Shanghai Rolex Masters by acknowledging he does have some early regrets in his career.

The 26-year-old has been handed a wildcard entry for a tournament he is all too familiar with. This is the ninth time an entry to the star-studded event has come courtesy of a wildcard, where Wu Yibing, Zhang Ze and Canada’s Denis Shapavalov will join him.

Wu Di beat the Argentine Pablo Cuevas in the first round of last year’s competition, before falling 6-2, 6-2 to Frenchman Gilles Simon at the next hurdle. It was his best performance at the tournament, but he is determined to do even better this year.

“Of course I want to continue to do my best this year,” said Wu. “It’s a great learning experience whoever you take on in a top-level tournament like this.”

The tennis player, born in Wuhan, Hubei Province, also wants to make a mark in the big four major tournaments. Wu has never gone further than round one in the Australian Open in 2013, 2014 and 2016, while he has failed to qualify for any of the other big three.

“I also want to make a breakthrough in Grand Slam tournaments,” he insisted. “Winning a first round match in the main draw is still possible for me.”

Wu has every belief he can go further in a major, and at this year’s Shanghai Rolex Masters tournament. After all, he enters the competition on the back of yet another National Games title triumph, something no other Chinese tennis player has achieved. Wu added this year’s success to the victories achieved in 2009 and 2013.

“Desire for the title comes with a lot of pressure,” Wu said when reflecting on his third successive national title. “As a two-time defending champion, I was the biggest target for most players. For me, the third singles title was a surprise, though it was a pity that I did not manage to defend the doubles title.”


Wu Di with a trainer at the 2016 Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Surprisingly, Wu revealed he was not as mentally prepared for the National Games, as he should have been.

“I had some emotional ups and downs during training,” he admitted.

“It was always more difficult to defend something rather than fighting for it. I could have done better in the team competition. I still want to play in the National Games and I’m targeting another singles title next year. You can’t win them all but you have to try your best. I cherish and enjoy each day, because I know there is not much time left for me in my career.”

The world No. 220 still has other ambitions. One of those is to get his ranking down below his personal best of 140 in April last year, while also trying to nurture some of China’s top talent at the same time.

“Apart from competitive results, I want to help the players who are younger than me, including Wu Yibing and Zhang Zhizhen,” said Wu. “We should make progress together.”

Wu partnered Zhang in the National Games doubles final defeat to Jiangsu Province pair, and long-term rivals, Zhang Ze and Gong Maoxin. Later in Shanghai, he was paired with then 17-year-old Wu Yibing in the ATP Challenger where they reached the semi-finals. They will also compete as partners at the Shanghai Rolex Masters.

Wu has been China’s best-known player for years, which he admits has brought its own pressures.

“It’s actually very awkward,” Wu said. “China’s men’s tennis has been making progress, though it has been slow. Chinese players have started showing up in the Grand Slam preliminary rounds and that is a kind of improvement. But I want to see a great leap forward in our men’s tennis, so as to attract more attention.”

Having turned 26 just last month, Wu confessed that he is at the middle stage of his career.

“There’s not much time left, but I still have a chance,” said Wu. “My goal is not necessarily as high as the ones set by Wu Yibing or Zhang Zhizhen, as they are much younger than I am. I just don’t want to have regrets when my career comes to an end.”

Wu said he felt that a lot of time was wasted between the ages of 17 and 18 during his career development.

“If I had more back-up support like that of Wu Yibing, when I was 18, I could have achieved a lot more,” Wu reflected. “But there is no if, and my independence at an early age did help me in the latter part of my career. If I had been surrounded by people who could arrange everything for me, then when I encountered difficult moments, I wouldn’t have had to handle them alone.”

While the short-term goal is to win more titles and improve his ranking, in the long term China’s top tennis player is looking to settle down, start a family and have her be part of his future plans.

He said: “I want to find a girl who is willing to follow me for competitions and support me.”

Ma Yue / SHINE

It was Wu Di's 26-year-old birthday when he talked to Shanghai Daily on September 14.

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