Li Tu has claimed his maiden ATP Challenger title in Seoul, taking out the tournament just weeks after losing his mother to cancer.
In an emotional achievement for the Australian, Tu lifted the trophy one day before his late mother’s birthday.
Remarkably, he travelled to Korea for the event shortly after the funeral service.
The 26-year-old entered the tournament via the qualifying stage, before winning five consecutive main draw matches to notch his first ATP title.
He notably defeated two seeded Australians – Christopher O’Connell and James Duckworth – on his route to victory.
In the final, Tu bested Wu Yibing in straight sets, winning 7-6 6-4 and falling to the floor after taking his match point.
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The result has seen Tu rocket up the ATP rankings, rising over 100 places to a career-high world No.190.
In an Instagram post the day after his title success, the resurgent tennis player paid tribute to his mother.
“It has been the toughest 2 months of my life,” Tu wrote.
“Watching you battle cancer, struggle and fight every day as you slowly lost your senses.
“Continuing tennis training because you were relentless that I must keep going and you are “getting better”.
“Being by your side as you took your last breath on 24/09/22 surrounded by our family who love you so much.
“A few days before you passed, you said to me “I’ll see you in Korea” and I broke down in tears.
“Coming over to Korea the day after your funeral, I wasn’t sure I could do it but before every match, I looked up at the sky and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw you.
“We did it Mum.”
Pure emotion 😍
Qualifier 🇦🇺 Li Tu wins his maiden #ATPChallenger title after defeating Wu 7-6(5), 6-4 in Seoul!@LiTuTennis | @TennisAustralia pic.twitter.com/SRc11ZMWaQ
A former Davis Cup junior, Tu initially walked away from professional tennis aged 16.
However, a six-year sabbatical was pivotal in re-sparking his love for the game.
“In my head I quit and just wasn’t really enjoying it anymore. There was a lot of expectation, a lot of pressure. It’s not easy being a tennis player and dealing with a lot of losses,” Tu told The Sporting News in May.
“I probably just didn’t have the right perspective at the time and really struggled to deal with that. It made me stop playing.
“Tennis was my entire life, I started when I was five and by the time I was 10 it was everything to me. For some people it works, but for me I found it didn’t.”
Tu has remained in Korea following his maiden title win and will look to build on his good form at another ATP Challenger event in Busan.