Zhang Ze and Gong Mao-Xin capture second-career title at Clearwater Bay

Trailing 4-3 in the third set super-tiebreak, reigning All China Games champion, Zhang Ze and Gong Mao-Xin, won six straight points to take control at the business end before registering a come-from-behind, 5-7, 6-4, [10-7], victory against Saketh Myneni and Christopher Rungkat.


Servers dominated the early going in the final until 3-3 when Rungkat squandered two game points to yield serve after the world No. 121 fended off three successive break points from a 40-15 lead.


Gong Mao-Xin, however, lost his serve to love, as Myneni and Rungkat got back on even terms, 4-4.


Then, in the pivotal twelfth game, after Gong failed to convert a game point with a 40-30 advantage in hand, the Indian-Indonesian duo broke the Chinese pair again to steal the opener, 7-5.


After Zhang and Myneni produced strong serving to begin the ensuing set, Rungkat was again under siege, as the All China Games winning pair broke the Indonesian to love to lead 2-1.


Yet, it was déjà vu for Gong again, as he wasted another chance to consolidate the service break when, he too, conceded serve to love to allow Myneni and Rungkat back into the fold at two games apiece.


Following an ace by Zhang down the tee to take proceedings to 3-3, the Chinese combo engineered four points in a row to break the Indonesian again to lead 4-3.  Gong then failed to capitalize on three successive game points and threw down a double fault to face break point before he finally held for a monumental 5-3 advantage.


After Myneni held with ease, Zhang was again solid on his deliveries, as he held for 6-4 with the applause from an approving crowd to force matters into a deciding third set super-tiebreak.


It was Zhang who flinched first when the Jiangsu native coughed up a double fault to surrender a mini break to trail 2-1.  However, after Rungkat held for 3-1, he was pinned back on the baseline following a deep return by Zhang and Gong made a timely intercept up at the net to take the score to 3-2.


Gong then belted a quality first serve out wide from the ad court to draw even at 3-3, but a late crossover by Zhang resulted in a miscued volley from his teammate to hand back the advantage to their opponents, 4-3.


From this point on, the Chinese combo won six decisive points in a row to take charge.  First, with Myneni serving, Rungkat motioned over for a quick kill, but Zhang's lightning reflex inside-out backhand volley found the line to force a 4-4 stalemate.  The 6-foot-4 Myneni, who was never troubled on serve since the start of the match, double faulted rather unexpectedly to trail, 5-4.


A first serve winner from Zhang then brought proceedings to 6-4.  On the next point, Gong stabbed at a volley at the top of the net and handcuffed Myneni to throw up a weak lob, which allowed Gong to smash away with authority, 7-4.


With Rungkat now serving, an unconvincing poach by Myneni was met with a fired-up Zhang who ripped a forehand crosscourt winner to jump out to an 8-4 lead.  Another lackadaisical volley from Myneni after a stinging backhand return from Zhang forces the Indian to dump the ensuing volley into the net, 9-4.


Gong proceeded to squander the first match point by reacting too slow to Zhang's fake poach, as the Indian-Indonesian pair saved a match point to get back to 9-5.  Myneni managed to hit a blinding down-the-line winner on a Gong slider out wide to peg the score back to 9-6.


Things are becoming tight for the Chinese pair as two more Myneni serves are set to come.  With both players staying back, a strong serve by Myneni yielded him a shoulder-height volley, and he produced a shallow crosscourt backhand volley to force an error from Zhang, who could barely run it down, 9-7.


As the crowd was expecting Myneni to hold again, Zhang let fly two tremendously struck forehands right down toward the tee.  Although Myneni just managed to volley the first one back, the second one was hit with even more ferocity and depth thaa landed plum on the line.  Game, set, match, 5-7, 6-4, [10-7].


This is Zhang Ze and Gong Mao-Xin's second career title here at the Hong Kong Tennis Champions Cup after they also won it back in 2012.


In 2017, Zhang Ze and Gong Mao Xin enjoyed a fairly good run of results on the Challenger Circuit, winning in Zhuhai, reaching the finals in San Francisco and Suzhou, and reaching the semis in Binghamton, Gatineau, Yokohama, and Maui.


Zhang reached a career-best No. 107 back in March while, Gong, who won a silver in men's doubles at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010 together with Li Zhe, peaked at No. 86 in October 2016.


Indonesia's Rungkat is ranked No. 121 at present, just three places off his career-high.  This season on the Challenger Circuit, he won Lisbon (w/ Ruan Roelofse) and Winnetka (w/ Sanchai Ratiwatana), while reaching the final in Dallas, Ningbo, Kobe (w/ Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan), Shenzhen (w/ Hsieh Cheng-Peng), and Toyota (w/ Ruben Gonzales).  In addition, he won four times on the Futures Circuit.


The winning pair received HK$80,000 in prize money, while Myneni and Rungkat pocketed HK$50,000 as the runners-up.

Earlier in the semifinals, China's Zhang Ze and Gong Mao-Xin defeated Chinese Taipei's Peng Hsien-Yin and Hsu Yu-Hsiou, while Saketh Myneni and Christopher Rungkat saw off Japanese duo Masato Shiga and Kaito Uesugi.


In the Green Group round robins, Hong Kong's Kevin Wong and Jack Wong lost to Saketh Myneni and Christopher Rungkat, 6-4, 6-4.  They had a chance to qualify for the semis but their hopes were dashed by a 6-4, 6-3, loss to Chinese Taipei's Peng Hsien-Yin and Hsu Yu-Hsiou.


In the Yellow Group round robins, Brian Yeung and Akon Hsieh went down against China's Zhang Ze and Gong Mao-Xin in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, followed by a 6-3, 7-5, set back against Japan's Masato Shiga and Kaito Uesugi.

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