The Hong Kong Davis Cup team gave Poland a run for its money with Brian Yeung in particular conjuring a rousing three-set duel against former world No. 14 Jerzy Janowicz before the favoured hosts wrapped up the World Group II Playoff by clinching the doubles in Kalisz.
In the opening singles, first time nomination Lam Ching broke ATP No. 302 Kacper Zuk in the opening game for a brief lead but the Polish rookie, who beat No. 93 Vasek Pospisil at the Calgary Challenger last week, returned the favour to draw even at 1-1.
After both held to take proceedings to 2-2, Zuk pocketed the next seven games before Lam managed to hold serve after saving multiple break points to stop the avalanche to trail, 6-2, 3-1.
The pressure was relentless, as Zuk never faced a break on his serve while Lam’s was under siege time and again. The Pole did not let up and broke the Hong Kong rep again in the penultimate game before holding for a 6-2, 6-1, victory in under an hour to give the home team a 1-0 lead as expected.
In the second singles, Brian Yeung threw down three first serves to hold at love to take a lightning quick 1-0 lead. The 6-foot-9 Janowicz struggled with 2 of 8 first serves but held nonetheless to force a 1-1 impasse.
Servers dominated until the eighth game when Janowicz double-faulted to fall behind 30-40. However, the 29-year-old, who has clocked regularly over the 150mph mark on the ATP Tour, crushed a blistering ace to force deuce. He then aced again to hold for an even-steven 4-4.
Yeung responded with a barrage of first serves and an ace of his own to register a love hold for a 5-4 lead. With Janowicz dialing up his first serve accuracy, servers again prevailed to lead proceedings to an inevitable tiebreak.
The players exchanged a pair of mini-breaks to begin the breaker before Janowicz manufactured another boomer to go up 2-1. After the HK rep held his next two serves, he produced a mini-break to lead 4-2. The Pole then belted another ace before Yeung held tough to arrive at 6-3. Although Janowicz managed to save two set points on his serve, Yeung smacked an untouchable thunderstrike flat out wide to ice the tiebreak, 7-5.
The ensuing set then went into overdrive, with the HK rep going toe-to-toe, blow for blow, with the former world No. 14, who has beaten the likes of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic, Grigor Dimitrov, Gael Monfils, Dominic Thiem, and Nick Kyrgios, to name a few.
After taking Janowicz to deuce in the opening game, Yeung threw down a pair of aces in each of his next three service games to stand tall. In what turned out to be a most pivotal seventh game, the HK rep was unable to convert three break points, with Janowicz acing at crucial junctures, first at 30-40, then again on game point following five deuces, to edge ahead 4-3.
Unfazed, Yeung belted two more aces to push the score to 4-4 but Janowicz countered with three of his own to lead 5-4. Finally, the 6-foot-9 counterpart took advantage of a rare double-fault and several second serves to break the HK Davis Cupper for 7-5 to even at a set apiece.
Third set, however, saw Janowicz improve his first serve percentage dramatically from 55% to 71% while Yeung, who sustained a healthy 57% in the opening two sets, dropped to only 31% on 8 for 26.
In another momentous fifth game, Janowicz squandered four game point opportunities before eventually belting a bruising ace on game point to go up 3-2.
Yeung still held his own, nonetheless, in all facets of the game, striking the ball with depth off both wings and inciting superb pick-ups in the forecourt that left Janowicz stranded. Yet, with a 5-4 advantage in hand, the former Wimbledon semifinalist capitalised on two costly double-faults by the HK rep and finally broke through to strong-arm the set and the match, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, to give his side a huge 2-0 overall lead.
Janowicz totalled 18 aces and 5 double faults, while Yeung tallied 14 and 6.
“I played one of the best, if not the best, match of my life. I knew I wouldn’t get that many chances to break his serve, so I had to focus on holding my own and stay aggressive. I pushed him. I pushed him hard enough to the point he had to step it up to earn this win. I had break points, but he’s top 15 for a reason. Overall, there’s really not many bad things I can say about my performance tonight,” said Yeung.
The doubles on Saturday was a topsy-turvy affair, with Davis Cup rookies Szymon Walkow and Jan Zielinski registering the lone break against Brian Yeung and Lam Ching in the fourth game to grab the first set 6-3.
The teams then swapped a break each in Set 2 to bring proceedings to a tiebreak. TeamHK conceded a mini-break right off the bat, then won the next five points to catapult to a 5-1 lead. Team Poland responded in kind and went off on their own five in a row to reach match point, 6-5.
With the finish line in sight, the Poles suddenly froze and struggled to buy a decent serve. Yeung and Lam took advantage and stole the next three points to bag the breaker 8-6.
After some choice words from Captain Mariusz Fyrstenberg, himself a former ATP doubles No. 6, Walkow and Zielinski regrouped and took their chances well by going 2 for 2 on break points, while TeamHK missed their opportunities and mustered a paltry 1 for 7.
Even so, with victory begging to be delivered leading 5-3, déja vu returned to haunt the Polish debutantes, as they laboured mightily on serve once again. Yeung and Lam would go on to fend off three more match points in a roller-coaster ninth game before they went down swinging in defeat, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3.
The doubles sealed an unassailable 3-0 lead for Poland in this World Group II Playoff tie in Kalisz, with TeamHK now headed for Asia/Oceania Group III later this year.
“I have no complaints. The players gave it their all. Brian was fantastic against Janowicz, not backing down one bit, and played fearless. He was amazing and took his game to a level I had never seen before. He certainly rose to the occasion but class ultimately triumphed in the end. Overall, it was a great team effort,” concluded Captain Yu Hiu Tung.
Davis Cup World Group II Playoff
Arena Kalisz, Poland
March 6-7, 2020
Poland defeated Hong Kong, China 4-0
R1 Kacper Zuk (POL) d. Lam Ching (HKG) 6-2 6-1
R2 Jerzy Janowicz (POL) d. Brian Yeung (HKG) 6-7(5) 7-5 6-4
R3 Szymon Walkow/Jan Zielinski (POL) d. Brian Yeung/Lam Ching (HKG) 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3
R4 Maks Kasnikowski (POL) d. Kai Wai Yu (HKG) 1-6 6-2 [10-3]