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Lu Yen-hsun runs out of gas in Asian Games tennis final

2014/09/30 17:33:55

Taipei, Sept. 30 (CNA) Unable to overcome physical and mental fatigue, Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun had his dream of an Asian Games men's singles gold medal shattered on Tuesday when he was upset by a young Japanese upstart.

Nineteen-year-old Yoshihito Nishioka, ranked 168th in the world and seeded fifth at the Asian Games, was simply more consistent and quicker to the ball than the Taiwanese veteran in a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 win that took just 71 minutes.

Lu, ranked 42nd in the world, had to settle for a silver medal with the loss, but he did become the first Taiwanese to ever win a medal in the men's singles at the Asian Games.

"I really treasured this opportunity with the national team, but I wasn't able to complete my mission. I am very sorry," said the disappointed Taiwanese veteran, who has probably competed in his last Asian Games.

Lu had struggled throughout the tournament, both on and off the court, and those ordeals seemed to finally catch up with him in the final.

Suffering from a nagging groin injury, the 31-year-old Lu was not nearly as agile around the court as his Japanese opponent, who consistently got everything back and rallied patiently from the baseline while waiting for Lu to make a mistake.

Lu rarely showed the power or steadiness to trouble Nishioka, and his serve deserted him at the worst times.

Needing some momentum after faltering in the first set, Lu served two consecutive double faults to lose the first game of the second set, and he double faulted on break point at 2-4 in the same set that essentially sealed the match for Nishioka.

Lu refused to use the injury as an excuse and praised the Japanese teenager.

"To talk about the injury now serves no purpose," Lu said. "My opponent probably had less pressure on him, but he did play at a higher level than I did."

"I congratulate him on having such a good result in his first Asian Games."

That Lu was not at his best throughout the tournament was evident in the semifinals against Yuichi Sugita of Japan, a match that he only won after breaking Sugita's serve in the 12th game of the third and final set and then taking the tiebreaker after being down 3-0.

He admitted to being weighed down by the mental strain of an ongoing dispute with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and the pressure of living up to his billing of heavy favorite at the Asian Games that also weighed him down.

Lu, who was entered in the China Open that began on Sept. 29, was threatened by the ATP last week with a three-year ban and a US$100,000 fine if he competed in the Asian Games and did not show up for the ATP 500 tournament in Beijing.

Considering Lu's age, the ban would have meant the end of Lu's professional career, but he decided to stick it out at the Asian Games, only to wonder what would happen if he made the finals.

"There have been a lot of things happening lately," he said on Monday. "I've really struggled inside. National honor is at stake at the Asian Games, and I have to be responsible to myself, to Taiwan and to the fans who support me."

Lu eventually pulled out of the China Open a few days ago, and his team said it has worked it out with the ATP so that he will be fined but not banned for any length of time.

There has also been the pressure of playing as the highest ranked player in the draw and outside expectations of gold.

"Anyone who plays me will think it's normal if they lose to me. So they won't feel any presssure," Lu said on Monday. "But I have to face these challenges."

He could have been talking about the final on Tuesday. Nishioka played freely while Lu never seemed to get untracked.

(By Luke Sabatier)