Australian Li Tu Wins First Challenger Title Days after Family Tragedy

Li Tu

Li Tu is a little-known name on the main ATP circuit. However, the 26-year-old has been starting to impress in his return to tennis.

The Australian made his debut on the ITF Futures circuit in 2011 but lost all four of his first matches in the first round. February 2014 saw Tu claim his first match win on the main ITF tour, before making a quarter final in April the same year, which was the best result Tu managed. The Australian then retired in June of the same year.

Return to Tennis

The Australian returned to tennis in 2021. Having been inspired to return during the non season of 2020. It took until August that year for Tu to reach his first ITF final. In Monastir, Tunisia the 26-year-old demolished Argentine Mateo Nicolás Martínez. Monastir was such a good court for Tu that the Australian focused on playing in Tunisia.

This proved to be a good move, as the Australian won two further ITF titles the following month. A straight sets win against Gabriel Décamps where he lost only three games, followed up with a win against Ryota Tanuma. The Japanese won the first set, before the Australian took the next two.

November saw Tu claim his fourth ITF title of the year, this time in France. At the Saint Dizier event Tu faced fellow Australian Dane Sweeney in the final. The first couple of sets were topsy-turvey as each took turns to lose only one game. The deciding set was fittingly close, with Tu coming out on top after securing one break of serve.

After losing in the first round of Australian Open qualifying, the 26-year-old remained in the country and won the ITF title in Bendigo. Defeating compatriot Andrew Harris in straight sets. Tu next made the final in Cairo on the clay courts. Defeating Colin Sinclair in a close three set battle, claiming his sixth ITF title.

The Australian returned to his favourite hunting ground, Monastir in May. Tu made the final of consecutive events and faced the same opponent both times. Skander Mansouri won the first in straight sets, but Tu fought for the other, and needed three sets (two of which were tiebreaks) to claim his seventh title.

Challenger Tour

The Australian debuted on the Challenger Tour in July in Rome, Georgia, U.S.A. Defeat in the first round followed. However, the following week Tu was an alternate in Indianapolis and made the second round. Steady progress saw Tu make the quarterfinal in Winnipeg, which saw the 26-year-old rise up the rankings.

The next two Challengers in the U.S.A. saw Tu lose in the first round of both events. From there, the Australian travelled to Korea and played in Gwangju. The 26-year-old made the second round before defeat. Still in Korea, the Australian entered the Challenger event in Seoul and had to come through qualifying.

Defeating the fifth seed Christopher O’Connell in the quarterfinal, and following this with defeating sixth seed James Duckworth in the semi, the Australian was in his first Challenger final. A very tight match against Wu Yibing saw Tu lift the first ATP Challenger title of his career. His ranking also soared to around #190. It was more remarkable as the Australian lost his mother to cancer just days before.

Tu had traveled to Korea the day after his mother’s funeral. He wrote on his Instagram after the amazing run

Although this was followed up with a loss in the first round in Busan which is understandable, Tu is starting to enter Challenger events on ranking, this will be good for the Australian, and he will be pleased he chose to return.

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