The lone warrior from Dragon land!

The lone warrior from Dragon land!

China is set to take another small step on the long march to becoming a tennis power when 21-year-old Wu Di meets Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in the first round of the Australian Open.

The 186th-ranked Wu, from the Yangtze river port of Wuhan, earned a wildcard to become the first Chinese man in the main draw of a Grand Slam since Mei Fu-Chi played at Wimbledon in 1959 in the era of Mao Zedong.

While Chinese women players have made major strides in recent years, Li Na capturing Asia's first Grand Slam singles title at the French Open in 2011, the men have trailed far behind.

The pint-sized Wu said he hoped to do his bit for the lagging half of China’s 1.3 billion population as he battled the butterflies before his Grand Slam debut.

“Of course, I’m nervous!” Wu said at Melbourne Park on Sunday. “It’s my first Grand Slam and I’m the first (Chinese) man in the professional era to play, so there’s certainly some nerves.

“But it’s part of a process. I’m really excited to be the first man but just being here isn’t my goal -- I actually want to win.”

His new dedication to the game has been noted by fellow Wuhan native and friend Li nA.
“Now that he’s got his coach he has someone that can be behind him pushing him forward,” Li told reporters on Sunday.