There was no pride lost as Hong Kong dominated the doubles before ATP No. 439 Benjamin Hassan defeated Kevin Wong in a closely-fought reverse singles, 7-6(5), 6-3, to secure a 3-1 win for Lebanon in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group II semifinal in Beirut over the weekend.
Nominations for this tie were Jack Wong, Kevin Wong, Brian Yeung, Skyler Butts, and Yu Hiu Tung (Captain), while Dr. David Ho was the Team Manager.
“Of course, we’re disappointed we didn’t get the win, but we knew it was going to be a tough tie, as they had a much higher-ranked No. 1 and home court advantage,” said Captain Yu Hiu Tung. “Nevertheless, we did extremely well in the all-important doubles and had real chances to win two of the three singles rubbers so overall I’m not too upset with the result.”
“In big matches, it often comes down to just a few points. Even though Hassan was the best player this weekend, Kevin certainly played him tough all the way through till the end despite the huge discrepancy in ranking. Shot selection, execution, and a little luck all come into play at the end of the day,” he added.
In the opening singles on Saturday, Jack Wong (ATP No. 1167) managed to fend off an assortment of break points to keep it afloat in the first set, but world No. 439 Benjamin Hassan was always going to have the edge with a set in hand, as he managed to break Jack three times in the second to win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, to give Lebanon a 1-0 start.
Kevin Wong drew level with Hady Habib by winning five games in a row to take the second set 6-1 after a back and forth opener won by the Lebanese, 6-4. However, in the crucial seventh game of the ensuing set, Kevin was unable to convert four break points with three of them at 0-40 when Habib thrice threw down a double fault.
With a couple of good shots sandwiched between a pair of iffy line calls, Habib eventually came up with the lone break three games later to win, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, to hand Lebanon a momentous 2-0 advantage heading into Sunday.
With Lebanon taking both singles on Saturday, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Hong Kong team.
With the semifinal seemingly slipping away, Kevin Wong and Brian Yeung came out on court firing on all cylinders right from the start and put forth a commanding display to make a tie-saving win in the doubles against Hady Habib and Giovani Samaha.
The duo was dominant on serve and never faced a break point, while breaking the left-handed Samaha three times to register a 6-2, 6-4 victory to peg Hong Kong back to a more manageable 2-1 deficit.
In the opening reverse singles between the two side’s number one, Kevin Wong (ATP No. 978) and Benjamin Hassan went toe-to-toe on serve until the twelfth game when the Lebanese, needing to hold serve to stay in the first set, coughed up a break point to trail 30-40.
Kevin then ran down Hassan’s drop-shot attempt, but he just failed to get the response back over the net, as the Lebanese forced proceedings to a tiebreak.
The world No. 439 made the first move and produced a mini-break to go up 5-2. After holding for the next couple of points, Kevin returned the favour by conjuring his own mini-break to wrestle the score back to a 5-5 impasse.
However, after finding a big service winner for 6-5, Hassan broke through at the business end to strong-arm the breaker, 7-5.
The ensuing set was again even-stevens and on serve until the eighth game when Hassan made the big break to lead 5-3 before he held without much fanfare to wrap up a 7-6(5), 6-3, victory.
“I was proud to see that our players fought hard, but the better team won on the day,” said HKTA President, Philip Mok.
With the win, Lebanon now moves on to the Group II final against Thailand, who beat Philippines on indoor clay in Manila 4-1 yesterday.
Hong Kong will remain in Group II in 2019 after having beaten Iran 4-0 in the first round at Victoria Park earlier in February.
Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone Group II semifinal
April 7-8, 2018
R1 Benjamin Hassan (LBN) d. Jack Wong (HKG) 6-4 6-1
R2 Hady Habib (LBN) d. Kevin Wong (HKG) 6-4 1-6 6-4
R3 Kevin Wong/Brian Yeung (HKG) d. Hady Habib/Giovani Samaha (LBN) 6-2 6-4
R4 Benjamin Hassan (LBN) d. Kevin Wong (HKG) 7-6(5) 6-3