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Australian pro Li Tu has wrapped up the best year of his career on the court and can look forward to many opportunities this year. In October, the 26-year-old cracked the Top 200 in the ATP rankings for the first time after capturing his biggest title at the Seoul Challenger 110.
Since rekindling his pro career in 2020, Tu has won seven ITF titles, four of which came in Monastir, Tunisia.
“It's been a crazy ride,” Tu told Universal Tennis. “Fifteen months ago, I was unranked. I wouldn't have imagined that I'd be where I am at the moment but just taking it day by day.”
Reigniting His Pro Dreams
His story is intricately connected with Universal Tennis. Tu had given up his pro dreams in his early 20s and turned to coaching full-time in Adelaide, even starting up a tennis academy in 2018.
When Universal Tennis first launched its pro tour, then called the UTR Pro Tennis Series, Tu gave it a shot when the tour came to his hometown in July 2020. Across six months, he would string together a 16-match win streak and capture two Series titles in December.
He’d win his first Series title in December in Melbourne and his second trophy the following week in Sydney. His 2020 Universal Tennis pro record across eight events was 28-2, catching the eye of Tennis Australia and cementing his plans to pursue pro tennis again.
“Universal Tennis definitely helped a lot, especially when I first started, and I needed a lot of matches,” Tu said. “The prize money and level of play were good. But to get a guaranteed number of matches in a week, as opposed to you playing ITF Futures, where sometimes you lose the first round and wait a week to play again. It's a good way to improve and get a lot of matches under your belt.”
Li Tu Travels the Globe
Tu was awarded a wild card into the 2021 Australian Open, which he came into hot on the heels of winning his first of six UTR Pro Tennis Tour titles (two were unfinished finals). By the end of 2021, he was playing full-time on the ITF Tour and ranked nearly inside of the ATP Top 500.
He kept the pace up in 2022, winning his first title of the year at an ITF M25 in Bendigo before traveling the world to play in Egypt, Tunisia, Bosnia, Slovak, the U.S., Canada, South Korea, and Japan.
“I enjoy traveling and soaking in the culture and the local cuisine,” Tu said. “The only thing I'd probably change is not doing so many tournaments in a row. It was a bit of a grind and traveling through many different continents, but I definitely learned a lot about myself and what I would probably do better next time is the scheduling part. To play pro tennis, you need to be traveling a lot. You’ve just got to enjoy what you do.”
Li Tu Wins Biggest Title Yet
At the ATP Challenger in Seoul, he came through qualifying, winning seven matches, including two over higher-ranked compatriots Christopher O’Connell and James Duckworth.
“When I first made that leap
The milestone victory was bittersweet as Tu had lost his mother just a few weeks before to cancer, delivering the eulogy at her funeral just ahead of his trip to Korea. He had spent nearly two months at home, spending time with his mom and getting married to Kimberely Fox. He would win his Seoul final over Wu Yibing the day before his mother’s birthday.
“I thought it was important to be there for my mom,” Tu said. “There's always tennis to play. I kept training during that time, and my mom always supported me. She always just wanted me to love what I did. She knew that I loved playing tennis and always wanted me to keep playing even when her health wasn't great.”
Now Tu is home in Adelaide, putting in his pre-season work ahead of playing the Australian Open once more, this time earning his place in the qualifying draw directly. His goal in 2023 is to build his ranking high enough for direct entry into the 2024 Australian Open main draw.
“The last few months have been huge,” Tu said. “Dealing with a loss, getting married, winning my first Challenger, which put me on the map and gave me another sense of belief. It's been very eventful, but I’m very grateful.”
Learn More About the PTT
The PTT is open to players with a UTR Ranking of 200-2000, and wild cards can be awarded to those players with a UTR Ranking of 1-199 or above 2000. Every PTT event creates matchplay opportunities for up-and-coming, collegiate, and pro players thanks to a unique round-robin format. At every event, a group round-robin stage is followed by a World Cup-style playoff, guaranteeing multiple matches and counting all results towards the UTR Rating, the most accurate rating system in tennis. Every PTT event offers 4-5 matches and a minimum of $20,000 in prize money with an earnings guarantee for every participant.
For more information about UTR PTT and to see all of the results, click here.