The State of Hong Kong Tennis in 1974
The HKLTA report for 1974 highlighted the need for further development. Three major tournaments had been held: the Viceroy Tennis Classic, the National Grasscourt Championships and the ILTF Amateur Championships of Asia. But limited revenues and the volume of administrative work served to emphasise the need for a more sound financial footing that a Sports Foundation, funded by the government, could help to provide.
The 1974 National Grasscourt Championships were held for the last time at the HKCC in Chater Road, bringing to an end an era where "the public, enjoying the easy access to the courts during lunch time and after office, would come and go as their time permitted, and the players and officials commingled pleasantly on the club's verandah".
The emergence of talented juniors such as Ling Fong and Kenneth Tsui led to Davis Cup participation in 1970, under the non-playing captaincy of lifelong tennis-servant Cyril Kotewall, though it was not until 1982 that Kelvin Ng recorded Hong Kong's first point, at home to the Philippines. Despite progress in men's tennis however, the 1984 HKLTA report also commented, less optimistically, that in the two sanctioned Open championships, organised by CRC and SCAA, only Men's events were held, and that "more will have to be done to attract young girls in secondary schools to take up the sport."
Support and Sponsorship
The establishment of the Hong Kong Tennis Patrons' Association in 1976 helped to consolidate the calendar of professional events, with consequential financial benefits to junior tennis development via the Hong Kong Tennis Foundation, which was set up in 1988 to obtain corporate sponsorship and donations for tennis programmes.
The Seiko Super tennis event, offering US$200,000 in prize money, was soon followed by the appearance of the world's very best players, in both the annual Marlborough 16-man exhibition event and the ATP Salem Open. Top-class women's tennis arrived more recently, featuring stars such as Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Venus Williams, Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova, and is now a regular feature on the local tennis calendar.
Representing Hong Kong
With Davis Cup competition since 1970, and Ladies' participation in the Fed Cup since 1981, young players like Melvin Tong, Wayne Wong, John Hui, Tong Ka-po and Willy Chan-Lee have frequently flown the Hong Kong flag, after previously working their way through rigorous junior coaching schemes and measuring their progress in worldwide junior international events.
Three Hong Kong-wide open hardcourt tournaments, the Hong Kong National Tennis Championships, the Chinese Recreation Club (CRC) Open Hardcourt Tennis Championships and the South China Athletic Association (SCAA) Open Championships, whose structure and openness have evolved since their inception, provide the basis for players to prove their worth and achieve national rankings.
In the 21st century the playing of tennis is widespread in Hong Kong with leagues and tournaments for all age-groups held throughout the year. With over 40 Affiliated Clubs, 8000 registered players and 600 courts, many open to the public, the sport's growing popularity is ensured.
By John Shaw