Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun has the unenviable task of facing top seed Roger Federer in the first round of the men’s singles at Wimbledon today.
Unfortunately for Lu, Federer is on a roll, having won the French Open for the first time earlier this month, but there is a crumb of comfort for the Taiwanese No. 1 in that the Swiss star will not have played a competitive match on grass before taking to the courts in SW19.
However, Lu’s form on the green stuff in two tournaments over the last couple of weeks has been mediocre. A first round 6-1, 6-1 hammering by Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez at Queen’s Club was followed by a three sets victory over world No. 479 Colin Fleming in Eastbourne, before another loss to Garcia-Lopez.
Incredibly, should Lu beat Federer he could face Garcia-Lopez again if the world No. 50 can overcome first round opponent Agustin Calleri.
The magnitude of the task facing Lu can be gauged by considering Federer’s achievements. The 27-year-old is a five-time Wimbledon champion and only missed out on a sixth title last year after losing a thrilling five-set final to world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
He is one of only six men to have won all four Grand Slams and his victory at the French Open was his 14th Grand Slam singles title, matching Pete Sampras’ all-time record. The American has described Federer as ‘the greatest ever’ player.
Lest Lu fans be tempted to abandon all hope, it’s worth remembering that the man from Taipei has proved that on his day he is more than a match for the world’s top players, as Andy Murray, David Nalbandian and Lleyton Hewitt have discovered over the past 12 months.
Even a defeat against Federer wouldn’t be the end of the road at Wimbledon for Lu, as he’s teamed up with Germany’s Bjorn Phau in the mens doubles where they face Russian pair Igor Andreev and Evgeny Korolev in the first round.
On paper, the draw has not been particularly kind to Taiwan’s sole representative in the women’s singles either, with world No. 119 Chan Yung-jan scheduled to face No. 12 seed Marion Bartoli in the first round today. However, the Frenchwoman — a finalist at Wimbledon two years ago —was forced to retire from her semi-final match at the AEGON International on Friday with a thigh strain, putting her participation at the All England Championships in doubt. Even if she plays, she is unlikely to be 100 percent fit.
The prospects for Taiwanese players look most promising in the women’s doubles.
Hsieh Su-wei and China’s Peng Shuai are seeded fifth and take on Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the first round, while 15th seeds Chuang Chia-jung and Sania Mirza face US pair Jill Craybas and Carly Gullickson. Chan and Agnes Szavay of Hungary have been drawn to play Vera Dushevina of Russia and Ukraine’s Tatiana Perebiynis.
■THINKING ABOUT DAD
When Lu Yen-hsun walks onto Centre Court to tackle Roger Federer today, the Taiwanese player’s first thought will be for his late father who inspired him to play at Wimbledon.
Lu was only 17 when his father died of a heart attack and the tragedy was such a shock he briefly gave up the sport.
“After my father passed away, I didn’t want to play tennis anymore. My family was supporting me to go back to the tennis court, but I could not. I did not have the spirit,” the 25-year-old told Deuce magazine. “Then one day, I remembered that my father had a dream that his son can maybe play Wimbledon some day and become top 100. So, I used this as my energy because I wanted to make my father’s dream come true.”
Lu will be making his Centre Court debut today, but it will be his sixth Wimbledon where his best performances remain runs to the second round in 2004 and 2005.
These days he works with Dirk Hordoff, the coach of German veteran Rainer Schuettler, who was a semi-finalist last year.
“Like most Asian players, he is a very hard worker,” Hordoff said. “He gets his confidence by working hard. While he is always very fair to other people, he is very self critical.”