- Published on Sunday, 15 April 2018 14:01
- Written by Andy Yanne
After placing 4th at the Asia/Oceania Qualifying in Malaysia, Tim Gauntlett, Coleman Wong, and Lam Chun will get the chance to cross swords with some of the best under-16 players in the world at the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Budapest later this summer. This marks the fifth time Hong Kong has qualified for the finals since the event's inception in 1985.
"I want to congratulate the players for their exceptional effort and the competitive spirit they demonstrated all week," Captain Nikola Zajelac said. "Six matches in six days played under extreme heat and humidity made it tough, but we are grateful for the support from HKTA and everyone back in Hong Kong. We return with a sense of pride and satisfaction."
"Finishing in the Top 4 and qualifying for the Finals, I'm lost for words right now," said Gauntlett, the reigning HK Nationals under-16 boys' singles and doubles champion. "This was an overall team effort and our hard work is definitely paying off. The never-ending support from our parents also made us believe we could achieve the impossible."
Wong, a finalist at the Longines Future Tennis Aces 2017 in Paris, reflected, "I'm obviously extremely happy with the result. I'm ecstatic with the team's performance and with any luck we can do well in the Finals too."
Lam, who joined forces with Wong to snatch four of the five doubles they contested, remarked, "I'm really proud of my teammates, as we managed to beat countries that were a lot stronger on paper. We all stepped up big at key moments and we hope to continue our impressive form in Hungary."
Hong Kong, seeded 7th, initially drew Kazakhstan, New Zealand, and No. 3 seed Australia in Group D in the round robins.
Wong (No. 1612) and Gauntlett (No. 768) fashioned terrific starts, toughing out singles victories against Kazakhstan and New Zealand respectively to stake the team unassailable 2-0 leads before Lam (No. 810) and Wong took both doubles points to register 3-0 victories.
With the Aussies also blanking the Kazakhs and Kiwis in their opening matches, Hong Kong was guaranteed a Top 2 finish in the group, and thus a place in the ensuing knockout stage.
In their last round robin outing, Wong and Gauntlett both established early leads before Tai Sach (No. 682) caught the former in three sets, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0, while Dong Chen (No. 156), the second highest-ranked player in Kuching this week, powered home against the latter in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, decision.
Australia then bagged the meaningless doubles to complete a 3-0 success to progress as first-place finisher in the group.
Next up, the pivotal quarterfinals dealt Hong Kong up against Group C winner and the No. 4-seeded team, Korea.
With Kim Dong Ju (No. 286), who is close to 500 places higher in the rankings awaiting Gauntlett at the one spot, nothing short of a positive outcome from Wong will suffice to prevent the opposition from gaining a stranglehold in this do-or-die encounter.
The under-14 number one from Hong Kong did not disappoint, as he engineered a stirring comeback to collar Park in a third set tiebreak, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5), to cement a vital 1-0 lead for the team.
Then in a face-off between the number ones, the Korean managed to keep his side afloat with a 6-1, 6-0, win against Gauntlett, but that was not nearly enough to deter Lam and Wong, as the duo collaborated to secure the match-clinching doubles in straight sets, 7-6(3), 6-2, against Kim and Park.
The 2-1 victory puts Hong Kong in the semifinals, but the boys were unable to get past Uzbekistan and settled for fourth place after a 2-0 loss to Australia in the final positional playoff match.
The Top 4 teams from Asia/Oceania ‒ Japan, Uzbekistan, Australia, and Hong Kong ‒ are all safely through to the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals in Budapest, set to take place from September 25-30.
The qualifying event for Europe, which is part of the European Summer Cups, begins later in August when eight teams will emerge with the right to compete in the Finals.
In 2017, Czech Republic, led by Dalibor Svrcina, beat USA 2-0 in the final to capture the Junior Davis Cup. Argentina followed suit with a 2-0 win over Croatia in the 3rd-4th place playoff.
Svrcina, now holding an ITF Ranking of No. 9, is still eligible for this year's competition.
Prior to this year's qualification, four previous teams from Hong Kong managed to reach the Finals:
2001 ‒ Jack Hui, Brian Hung, and Christian Frick
2011 ‒ Brian Yeung, Kevin Wong, and Jonathan Cho
2014 ‒ Jack Wong, Jackie Tang, and Lam Ching
2015 ‒ Lam Ching, Alan Sou, and Tiger Cheung
About the Junior Davis Cup
The ITF's International Team Competition for players aged 16 and Under was launched in 1985 as the World Youth Cup. This event was re-branded in 2002 as the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and the Junior Fed Cup, and then again in 2005 as the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.
This age bracket was chosen as a critical period in a player's development and gave an opportunity for young players to enjoy a taste of the special demands of team membership in a competitive environment. Except for the host nation, every team must compete in tough regional qualifying competitions each year to make it through to the Finals.
Notable past participants of this competition included Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, and Alexander Zverev.
Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas
April 9-14, 2018
(7)Hong Kong defeated Kazakhstan 3-0
R1 Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Alibek Aidaraly (KAZ) 7-6(7) 7-5
R2 Tim Gauntlett (HKG) d. Rostislav Galfinger (KAZ) 4-6 6-0 6-4
R3 Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Alibek Aidaraly/Timur Chsherbakov (KAZ) 6-3 6-1
(7)Hong Kong defeated New Zealand 3-0
R1 Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Corban Crowther (NZL) 4-6 6-3 7-6(2)
R2 Tim Gauntlett (HKG) d. Reese Falck (NZL) 7-6(2) 6-2
R3 Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Reese Falck/Nicholas Beamish (NZL) 4-6 6-4 [13-11]
(3)Australia defeated (7)Hong Kong 3-0
R1 Tai Sach (AUS) d. Coleman Wong (HKG) 2-6 6-2 6-0
R2 Dong Chen (AUS) d. Tim Gauntlett (HKG) 4-6 6-3 6-1
R3 Dong Chen/Cooper White (AUS) d. Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) 7-6(5) 6-4
(7)Hong Kong defeated (4)Korea 2-1
R1 Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Park Jungwon (KOR) 2-6 6-4 7-6(5)
R2 Kim Dong Ju (KOR) d. Tim Gauntlett (HKG) 6-1 6-0
R3 Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Kim Dong Ju/Park Jungwon (KOR) 7-6(3) 6-2
Uzbekistan defeated (7)Hong Kong 2-1
R1 Azizbek Dadabaev (UZB) d. Coleman Wong (HKG) 7-5 6-3
R2 Olimjon Nabiev (UZB) d. Tim Gauntlett (HKG) 6-4 6-3
R3 Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Azizbek Dadabaev/Ibrokhimjon Urinov (UZB) 6-2 3-6 [10-7]
3rd-4th Place Playoff
(3)Australia defeated (7)Hong Kong 2-0
R1 Cooper White (AUS) d. Coleman Wong (HKG) 6-4 6-4
R2 Tai Sach (AUS) d. Tim Gauntlett (HKG) 6-1 6-4
R3 Lam Chun/Coleman Wong (HKG) v. Dong Chen/Cooper White (AUS) DNP
Final Positions (Bracket denotes seeding):