Then, I saw the draw and saw that he was slated to play none other than Andy Roddick in his Round of 16 match. The last time they played? Andy won it 4 and 4 and Lu barely had a chance. So I thought, Wow, okay, he's doomed. No way in hell he's gonna win.
When the match started I followed the live scores closely. The first set ended predictably, 6-4 (I even got the scoreline right). I was mildly surprised to see that the second set went with serve until 5-all but thought that Andy would find a way to break for the set. When it went to a tie-break, I was even more surprised, but assumed that Andy would find a way to win it.
When Star Sports switched over to No. 2 Court (also known as the Graveyard - many past champions faced early exits on that court. Maybe that was why they revamped it), they were nearing the tail end of the second set tie-break...and it was Lu with 6 points to 4, then it was Lu with the set point, and then it was him closing it off beautifully, charging the net to hit a short forehand up the corner that Andy attempted to retrieve but found only net.
I was SO overjoyed. Never once did I think Lu had even the slightest chance of taking a set off Andy. It was Wimbledon. It was grass. Andy has one of the biggest, if not the biggest, serves in the game. On the other side of the net was Taiwanese boy Lu Yen-Hsun, he who comes from a country where tennis is barely visible (I had first-hand experience), whose father caught chickens for a living, and whom only forayed into tennis by chance, because his father one day felt like it.
The odds were heavily in faovur of Andy. No one thought Lu had a chance, I didn't think he had a chance - not even when he won the second set. I fully expected Andy to come back and win the next two sets, so when Lu pushed the third set into a tie-break, it was just too much. Seriously, it felt like a tight Federer match, perhaps a Federer/Nadal match - a match that I didn't dare to watch, whose scores I didn't dare to follow, because I cared too much, way too much, about the outcome.
The only reason I know who Lu is, and actually give a damn, is because he's Taiwanese. Being Singaporean has robbed me of the chance to feel proud of my countrymen on the sporting arena, because we have virtually none. I find zero value in a Olympic medal that was essentially bought, won by players who were granted Singapore citizenship for the sole purpose of representing the country in international sports. It's a fucking waste of time and I couldn't begin to describe my deep disdain for this practice, and how deeply insulting I find it to be to the talented athletes in this country who aren't given a chance.
Lu Yen-Hsun, on the other hand, is a born-and-bred Taiwanese. He's 1.78 m tall, of average Asian weight, and is built smaller than the average tennis player. When you look at him he looks like any other player who hangs out at the NUS courts on Saturday mornings, except maybe he's a few centimetres taller. He's non-descript, he looks harmless, and at the heart of it, he's an Asian. What odds does an Asian man have to beat the No. 5-seeded American on grass?
Against all odds, he did it. I don't know how; didn't get to watch the match. But he did it. He lost his mini-break in the fourth set tie-break, but hung in there in the fifth set all the way until 9-7. He was never broken after being broken in the first set, and he managed to break Andy Roddick's serve. He staved off break points with gutsy volleys (from what I've read) and said that, even though he didn't believe he'd win, he knew that he'd give himself a chance if he kept fighting.
And fight he did, and so he won.
What an incredible, incredible victory. He's the second Asian man to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam (the first being a Japanese guy in 1995, also at Wimbledon), and the first Taiwanese man to do so. Before this match no one knew who he was, no one cared, and the scores and updates on official websites mentioned his victories in one sentence or less. Now, everyone knows who he is - the guy from Taiwan who defeated Andy Roddick.
He plays Novak Djokovic next. I like Djokovic, but I've always liked Andy better and I rooted so hard for Lu. No way in hell I'm going to want anything less than another victory for Lu Yen-Hsun, of Taiwan.