It’s been a long long while since last time I watched a shot-by-shot tennis match. It’s been too much. Ever since the Agassi, Rafter, and Pete era ended, I thought I had accumulated enough tennis matches in my life that I wouldn’t have to watch another match of tennis in order to conjure the vivid images of the Grand Slams in my mind. Just too much.
Well yesterday (and through the early morning), I did it again. And thank goodness I did. It brought back the memories of watching Chu winning the Olympic Gold in Athens. The scenes that touches the heart, pumps the adrenalin, and boils the blood. Lu battled a somewhat frustrated Roddick to a 5-set nail biter, and capitalized on his only 2nd breakpoint of the match in the 16th game of the 5th set to advance into the round of 8. That’s history-making.
I remember watching Lu in his early days when he and Wang both broke into the 100s. Wang had always been the more gifted one, with touch for the shots, feel for the game. And Lu? he’s the less talented one with the so-called "vintage Taiwanese character" – hard work, period. I can still remember how he couldn’t stand firm against the fast-and-furious Aussie giant who could only serve and volley in the Davis Cup in Kaohsiung. A few years later, how he was trying hard to make his match-up with Roger a competition, only to error on the winners-to-be’s. Skill wise, I have seen better than him, but that was not the root of his obstacles. It was his mentality, he was not strong enough, not confident enough, and not mature enough.
Apparently, Lu stuck with his character and progressed. Against Andy (the though 28-to-be yet still boyish American), Lu displayed whole array of skills that dominated from the baseline, covered the court with obviously improved footwork, surprised his fans with nifty serves, and amazed the crowd with the crafty net volley. Broadcasters showed that he’s worked with Argentine trainers to strengthen his legs, and worked with Woodforde on his volleying. The hard work plus the right mentor definitely is paying off.
But most importantly, Lu played the game with the level of confidence that I’ve never seen before. Given, Andy wasn’t on top of his game (which could be due to Lu’s pressure), yet his serves were still faster than the exotic Italian race cars. It was almost impossible to break Andy’s serve with the level of return that Lu had at the moment. What did Lu did? He stuck his gun and stayed in the game. Strategy? Just like batting against a 95+ fireballer, you hang-in there until the shoulder wears down. Well, Andy’s service finally slowed down just a half-notch in the end of the 5th match. Both of them were obviously tired, began to show a few unforced errors. Finally, in the 16th game of 5th set, Roddick’s 1st serve wasn’t bombing any longer, and Lu controlled the ground game, the match, and captured the hearts of all his audiences.
Really, there have been better. I’ve seen better matches. And this is merely the match to the round of 8. Though both Lu and Roddick did show some quality rallies, the story goes much deeper. As described in the official website, it’s how Lu got to the stage, from the chicken catcher, to his pa, to his supportive family. It sort of is like Kuo in a way. Kuo is an established reliever, yet the story line is how he had gone through to get there. That’s what made him Kuo. So is Lu. Just when the whole sports fans of Taiwan are tuning for the world cup on the other side of the globe, Lu stormed in and stole the show. In contrast to those who marveled at Lu’s skills on the court, I am more touched by the support of Lu’s family (How’ya doing, Lu’s bro?) and his growing pain. It’s an inspiration, really, that not only reminds me again the reality of heroism, but also the power of will, belief, and faith. Though Lu’s already in the older end of a tennis career at 26, I wish this would only be one of the peaks that will be followed by many others, just like his victory against the other prodigy named Andy in the Beijing Olympics.
Congratulations, Lu, and your family. Like Andy said after the game (and showed that slight of matureness) "He deserved to win the game more than I did." You deserved it.
Kudos goes to Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated, who pointed out how Lu’s NOT from Chinese Taipei.
"* Note to the broadcasters: Despite what the ATP media guide might say, Lu is not from Chinese Taipei. He is from Taiwan, the capital of which is Taipei. Lu called his people "Taiwanese" and we should, too."
Thanks a lot, Jon.
To close out in my fashion. I was lying on my bed after witnessing the match. And I thought about a funny reasoning of how Lu pulled this out.
"trua mo jien, sei giah ou!"
Never underestimate the power of old wisdom! I told myself… So shouldn’t you, Novak.