2018-03-29

Hong Kong to face Lebanon in crucial Davis Cup Group II semifinal

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Hong Kong to face Lebanon in crucial Davis Cup Group II semifinal

Hong Kong’s nominations for the April 7-8 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Zone Group II semifinal against Lebanon are Jack Wong, Kevin Wong, Brain Yeung, and Skyler Butts.  The winner of this encounter will go on to face either Thailand or Philippines for promotion to Group I in 2019.

The tie will take place on outdoor hardcourts at Notre Dame University in Zouk Mosbeh, situated about 12 kilometres north of Beirut.

Lebanon’s nominations are Benjamin Hassan, Hady Habib, Giovani Samaha, Najib Fakih, Michel Saade, and Nasri Achkar (Captain).

Yu Hiu Tung will Captain Hong Kong once again, while Dr. David Ho is the Team Manager.

Although Hong Kong won the last three meetings and holds a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Lebanese, Captain Yu Hiu Tung was quick to dismiss any statistical bearing towards the upcoming tie.

“Different players, different circumstance,” said Yu Hiu Tung.  “Not only are we playing away, they have an in-form player who is in the ATP Top 500 in singles.  Lebanon also beat second seed Chinese Taipei handily in the first round, so we fully expect this tie to be a tough one.”

“Our players just recently returned from three straights weeks of pro circuit events in Qatar, so they are match-fit and ready to go.  Kevin Wong did well to win the men’s doubles during the third week over there and as expected he will be one of our linchpins in the all-important doubles,” he added.

Yu Hiu Tung is captaining the side for the second time in Group II after leading the team to a 4-0 victory over Iran in the first round back in February.

As a player, Yu Hiu Tung has amassed 15 wins in singles and competed in a record 24 ties over eleven years of service.  Two years ago, he received the Davis Cup Commitment Award, which is presented by the ITF to players who have shown long-standing dedication to representing their country in this prestigious competition.

Jack Wong, who beat ATP No. 218 Dennis Novak of Austria to reach the quarterfinals of the Turkey F42 at the end of last year, said, “We know our opponents will be tough, especially with them having home field advantage.  They have a pretty good number one singles, but he is beatable, and I like our chances in the doubles.  We just need to play good tennis on the day.”

Hong Kong and Lebanon last met in the Group III playoffs in 2016 when Hady Habib beat Jackie Tang, 6-2, 6-3, to give his team a 1-0 lead before Karan Rastogi defeated Giovani Samaha to level proceedings at 1-1.  In the deciding doubles, Kevin Wong and Karan Rastogi beat Hady Habib and Jad Ballout, 6-3, 6-4, for the tie-clinching win to earn Hong Kong promotion to Group II.

However, the Lebanese has since added 23-year-old German-based Benjamin Hassan to the fold, who is ranked at a career-high No. 438 at present.  He won his first pro circuit title earlier this month after having reached four Futures finals during 2017.

Nineteen-year-old Hady Habib made his Davis Cup debut in 2015 and has been a constant fixture in Lebanon’s lineup since, going 12-1 in singles and 4-2 in doubles play. Habib turned pro after a freshman year at Texas A&M during 2016-17 in which he went 14-3 at No. 5 singles and 11-8 at No. 2 doubles and helping his team to a share of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) title with Georgia.

He won the Sri Lanka F3 Futures doubles and has picked up good wins against Top 500 players such as China’s Wang Chuhan (No. 481) and Chinese Taipei’s Chen Ti (No. 323). 

Habib is currently ranked No. 1077 in singles and No. 1131 in doubles.

Based on earlier nominations, Giovani Samaha is the player likely to feature in the doubles together with Habib.  The two combined for the tie-clinching win against Chinese Taipei’s Chen Ti and Yu Cheng-Yu in straight sets, 6-1, 7-5, in the first round.

Samaha is ranked No. 1408 in singles and No. 1155 in doubles at present.

The last time Hong Kong played Lebanon at this stage of the Davis Cup was 2001, when the Lebanese triumphed 3-2 at home on slow red clay behind the efforts of Ali Hamadeh and Jicham Zaatini.

Hong Kong will be gunning to reach the final in Group II for the first time since 2003.  Should the team advance past Lebanon, it will face either Thailand at home or Philippines away for a place in Asia/Oceania Zone Group I next year.