- Published on Monday, 30 September 2019 19:51
- Written by Andy Yanne
Coleman Wong, Tim Gauntlett, Oscar Wai, and Stephan Ehritt (Captain) powered the under-16 boys' team to an unprecedented 8th place finish at this year's Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals to earn Hong Kong's finest result in this event since its inauguration by the ITF in 1985.
"Getting to the Finals was no mean feat and to finish in the top 8 to attain our best ever position is a testament to all the hard work the team has put in. Well done!" remarked HKTA President, Philip Mok.
Competing against some of the best teams from Europe, Asia/Oceania, South America, North/Central America & The Caribbean, and Africa, any slow start in the Group stage at the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals could derail a team's chances in all likelihood. Though seeded for the first time, the boys from Hong Kong were pushed all the way just to progress to the knockout stage, with Ukraine and Syria both threatening to rock the boat.
Against Ukraine, the teams split the singles before Wong and Gauntlett combined for a tough, 7-6(3), 6-4, win in the deciding doubles against Mykhailo Mossur and Viacheslav Bielinskyi to seal a 2-1 victory.
In what turned out to be the match that sent TeamHK to the quarterfinals, both Wai and Wong had to work double overtime to overcome third set deficits to take the opening singles against Syria.
Wai lost the first set 6-1 and trailed 4-1 in the decider before running off five straight games to prevail, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, against Pierre Djaroueh to hand Wong a match-clinching opportunity. Against opposing No. 1, Taym Alazmeh, the same player he beat 2 and 2 during the regional qualifying six months ago, Wong had to step up a gear to engineer a four-game run from 5-3 down to power home, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, to seal the win.
With the top 2 from each group progressing to the quarterfinals, Hong Kong was to finish second in Group B behind No. 3 seed France to advance to a meeting with No. 4 seed Serbia.
Against the Serbs, it was always going to be challenging, as world No. 51 Hamad Medjedovic, Stefan Popovic, and Petar Teodorovic are the same three big hitters who finished a close second to France at the 2019 European Summer Cups B16 Finals.
Gauntlett started well by breaking the left-handed Teodorovic in the opening game following four long deuces. However, the HK rep missed the chance to consolidate after he threw down a couple of costly double faults. At 2-2, Gauntlett was on the move again, fending off his opponent on game point twice to break for 3-2. Teodorovic, again, returned the favour at once, winning four straight points from 30-0 down to force another 3-3 stalemate. Games went with serve until 5-4 when the Serb sneaked in a break to clinch the set.
In the second, Gauntlett had game point at 40-30 but yielded his serve to trail 2-0. Teodorovic kept his focus and broke again to extend the lead to 4-0. A rolled ankle then forced the HK rep to retire after he attempted to play through the injury unsuccessfully.
At No. 1 singles, Wong was up against Medjedovic, who reached a career-high ITF Ranking of No. 42 after he won the Grade 1 Berlin on clay earlier this summer. Wong broke first to lead 2-0 but the Serb's response was swift, producing a love break on the HK rep's next service game to draw level. In the eighth game, Wong fought hard to save three break points to hold for 4-4. With Medjedovic dominant on serve since the opening game, the world No. 51 broke Wong to love to grab the set 6-4.
Buoyed by Wong's pair of double faults, the Serb broke early to lead 2-0. In the pivotal third game and serving at 15-40 behind two doubles faults of his own, Medjedovic proceeded to save three break points to consolidate for 3-0. He rode with the momentum and broke again for 5-0 before Wong finally got on the board. Medjedovic then completed a love hold for a 6-4, 6-1, victory to put his team into the semis at the expense of Hong Kong.
At No. 51, Medjedovic is the fourth highest-ranked player at the JDC Finals behind only Japan's Shintaro Mochizuki (No. 2) and Americans Martin Damm (No. 4), Toby Kodat (No. 8). He was also a boys' under-14 singles finalist at Les Petits As in 2017.
Against No. 5 seed Great Britain in the 5th-8th Place Playoffs, Wong beat Lui Maxted, 6-2, 7-6(2), to force a deciding doubles, but with Gauntlett out, Maxted and Derrick Chen combined to beat Wong and Wai in straight sets for the overall 2-1 victory.
After Lucas Britez defeated Wai to give Paraguay a 1-0 lead, Wong was then forced to retire after he sustained an injury in the opening set against Adolfo Vallejo, effectively ending the 7th-8th Place Playoff. Vallejo had earlier sealed the Aussies' fate in the group stage when he won both singles and doubles to give his team a 2-1 win on opening day.
Nevertheless, an 8th overall position is an historic feat, as Hong Kong's previous high at the World Finals was 10th that was first attained by a squad led by Jack Hui and Brian Hung in 2001, and later in 2011 from one headed by Brian Yeung and Kevin Wong.
Japan defeated No. 1 seed USA 2-1 to win this year's Junior Davis Cup and remains the only team from Asia to do so since the competition began in 1985. The Japanese first triumphed in 2010, beating Canada in the final. Korea reached back-to-back Finals but lost to Spain in 2013 and USA in 2014. Australia has won it six times, but none since 2009.
The Junior Davis Cup is the international team competition for players aged 16 & Under. Except for the host nation, every team must compete in its region's qualifying in order to progress to the Finals. Sixteen teams are then drawn into four round robin groups with the top 2 advancing to the quarterfinal knockout stage.
Past participants of the Junior Davis Cup include Michael Chang (USA), Jim Courier (USA), Todd Woodbridge (AUS), Martin Damm (TCH), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (RUS), Marat Safin (RUS), Lleyton Hewitt (AUS), Andy Roddick (USA), Roger Federer (SUI), Rafael Nadal, Denis Shapovalov (CAN), and Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN), to name a few.
Junior Davis by BNP Paribas Finals
USTA National Campus
Sep 24-29, 2019
(7)Hong Kong d. Ukraine 2-1
R1 Mykhailo Mossur (UKR) d. Tim Gauntlett 6-4 3-6 6-4
R2 Coleman Wong d. Viacheslav Bielinskyi (UKR) 7-5 6-4
R3 Wong/Gauntlett d. Bielinskyi/Mossur (UKR) 7-6(3) 6-4
(7)Hong Kong d. Syria 3-0
R1 Oscar Wai d. Pierre Djaroueh (SYR) 1-6 6-1 6-4
R2 Coleman Wong d. Taym Alazmeh (SYR) 4-6 6-4 7-5
R3 Gauntlett/Wai d. Naghnagh/Djaroueh (SYR) 6-3 3-6 [10-5]
(3)France d. (7)Hong Kong 3-0
R1 Max Westphal (FRA) d. Tim Gauntlett 6-4 6-0
R2 Mehdi Sadaoui (FRA) d. Coleman Wong 6-3 6-4
R3 Mpetshi-Perricard/Westphal (FRA) d. Gauntlett/Wai 5-0 Retired
(4)Serbia d. (7)Hong Kong 3-0
R1 Petar Teodorovic (SRB) d. Tim Gauntlett 6-4 4-0
R2 Hamad Medjedovic (SRB) d. Coleman Wong 6-4 6-1
R3 Popovic/Teodorovic (SRB) d. Wong/Wai 6-2 6-2
5th-8th Place Playoffs
(5)Great Britain d. (7)Hong Kong 2-1
R1 Derrick Chen (GBR) d. Oscar Wai 6-3 6-0
R2 Coleman Wong d. Lui Maxted (GBR) 6-2 7-6(2)
R3 Maxted/Chen (GBR) d. Wong/Wai 6-0 6-1
7th-8th Place Playoff
Paraguay d. (7)Hong Kong 2-0
R1 Lucas Britez (PAR) d. Oscar Wai 6-4 6-2
R2 Adolfo Vallejo (PAR) d. Coleman Wong 5-3 Retired
R3 Vallejo/Vergara (PAR) v Wong/Wai DNP
Final Positions (Brackets denote seeding):
6. Great Britain(5)
8. Hong Kong(7)
9. Czech Republic(8)