The incredible story of Li Tu has enjoyed another milestone – as it continues to get better and better.
To take you all the way back – in June 2014, an 18-year-old Li Tu fell 0-6 in the deciding set of a second round ITF futures event in Bol, Croatia.
As a teenager, to be travelling around the depths of Europe, likely losing rather than making money whilst trying to progress up the tennis ranks – it’s brutal.
And Tu decided, that was enough.
The South Australian returned home to focus on coaching, opening his own ‘L2’ tennis academy in Adelaide and took seven years away from the professional level.
After initially making his comeback through local UTR events during the pandemic, Tu really hit the pro circuit in 2021 – receiving a main draw wildcard into the Australian Open.
The Aussie fell short just in four sets to the experienced Feliciano Lopez, before taking another six months off in preparation for a full-time return.
In August last year, an unranked Li Tu entered a 15K in Tunisia and won eight straight matches to claim the title. And since then, the progression has been remarkable.
Seven ITF singles titles in ten months before a return to ATP Challenger level in May this year. And now, an ATP Challenger champion.
[Q] Li Tu (AUS) def Yibing Wu (CHN) 7-6(5), 6-4
Tu took out the 110K title in Seoul, South Korea – winning seven matches and dropping just one set on his way to the trophy.
The 26-year-old was one of eight Aussie men in the Seoul main draw – including the likes of Alexei Popyrin, John Millman, James Duckworth and Chris O’Connell – and came in the lowest-ranked of the group.
Tu fought through tight encounters with O’Connell and Duckworth in the quarterfinals and semifinals to progress to Sunday’s decider against China’s Yibing Wu.
Wu entered the final as the clear favourite, having won titles in three of his past four Challenger events.
Finding himself down a break in the opening set, the Australian rallied to force a tiebreak – ultimately taking it 7-5.
The second set followed a similar pattern – with Tu falling behind 1-4 before reeling off five straight games to claim the title.
The 26-year-old was able to neutralize the shot-making of his opponent with remarkable defence, using his backhand slice to incredible effect.
Displaying his high tennis IQ and decision-making skills, the Aussie was able to challenge all aspects of the Wu game on his way to victory.
A career-defining week will boost Tu up over 100 places in the ATP rankings to a live placement of 189.
This extraordinary story is far from over – with Tu undoubtedly having a whole lot to offer at the top flight of men’s tennis.