At the 18th Asian Games, Zhang Ling and Eudice Chong both equalled the former’s best result in women’s singles by reaching the quarterfinals, while the mixed doubles team of Brian Yeung and Zhang Ling also made the last eight and, in the process, setting a new benchmark for this event. All three entries fell just one victory shy of a medal.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team. We stayed together all the way and almost made history. We will come back better and stronger,” said Amine Boustani.
“Extremely pleased about the way everyone fought on the court and how they supported each other off it. We came close, and it shows that if this group continues to work hard, they can achieve a lot more,” Karan Rastogi reflected.
In women’s singles, Eudice Chong and Zhang Ling were the early talk of the Asian Games when they eliminated No. 3 seed and Incheon 2014 silver medalist Luksika Kumkhum (WTA No. 91) in the second round and No. 4 seed Sabina Sharipova (WTA No. 125) in the third round respectively.
“Eudice was up a break in all three sets against Kumkhum, so she had chances even from the beginning. She showed great character and stuck to her guns throughout the match. She stayed aggressive especially on the big points and played both tiebreaks really well to beat an accomplished opponent, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(1),” said TeamHK women’s coach, Karan Rastogi.
Against Raina in the quarterfinals, Chong went up 4-1 in the first set before the world No. 185 from India found her power game to win in straight sets. Raina enjoyed a 64-47 advantage in Total Points Won and committed only 19 unforced errors compared to Chong’s 30.
Sharipova was a far different player from the one the Hong Kong Fed Cupper beat during the Group II Final in Uzbekistan last year. Trailing 7-5, 3-0, Sharipova came back to take the second set 6-3, and had a pair of match points when serving at 5-3 in the final set before the Hong Kong No. 1 dug deep to win the last four games on the trot to triumph, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5.
“I was kind of up and down, went through some good spells, but conceded back the advantage,” said Zhang Ling after the win against the Uzbek number one. “I managed to stay tough and competed hard as best I could. We’ve played each other several times before, so I knew it was going to be a challenging match, but I never lost belief and found a way to win in the end. I had great team support behind me too and that was a big help in getting me through today.”
However, Zhang Ling ran into a red-hot Liang En-Shuo, who found the lines often and regularly for winners. The 17-year-old from Chinese Taipei won this year’s Australian Open Junior Championships to ascend to No. 2 in the world, but she has since moved on to the pro circuit and is playing some of the best tennis of her life, as evidenced by her current career-high ranking of WTA No. 277.
In the ensuing semifinals, Liang eventually went down, 6-1, 6-3, against defending champion Wang Qiang, while Raina succumbed to No. 1 seed Zhang Shuai, 6-4, 7-6(6). In a repeat of last year’s All China Games final, Wang Qiang beat Zhang Shuai again and, in the process, became the first player to win two golds in women’s singles at the Asian Games.
In mixed doubles action, Brian Yeung and Zhang Ling caused another upset when they came from a set down to beat No. 3 seed Gong Mao-Xin and Yang Zhaoxuan of China, 4-6, 6-4, [10-7]. Gong has a current ATP doubles ranking of No. 139 and he already has three Challenger titles this season alone. Yang is also a doubles specialist ranked at a career-high No. 20. Earlier this year, she teamed up with Chinese Taipei’s Chan Hao-Ching to capture the Dubai Open and made the semifinals of the French Open.
The HK duo fought valiantly in the quarterfinal against Thailand’s fifth-seeded Sonchat Ratiwatana and Luksika Kumkhum but fell just shy in a 7-5, 6-3, defeat.
“It’s my third go at the Asian Games and it turned out that I was a win away from a medal in both singles and mixed doubles. Honestly, I feel extremely disappointed. I really wish I could have won a medal for Hong Kong. At every Asian Games, I felt it’s always a huge honour to wear the Hong Kong flag, but I can say I tried my best out there and gave it everything I got. I can see that our younger team members are capable of performing at a high level and they will have a bright future if they continue to work hard and improve their game,” said Zhang Ling.
The mixed doubles went to No. 11 seed Christopher Rungkat and Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia, who beat Ratiwatana and Kumkhum in the gold medal game, 6-4, 5-7, [10-7].
In men’s doubles, No. 9 seed Kevin Wong and Brian Yeung fought hands and heels to fight off 9 of 12 break points against Yosuke Watanuki and Yuya Ito, but the Japanese were stubbornly resilient and played surprisingly well at crucial junctures to win in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
“There are no excuses or any other way to put it other than I failed to bring a medal back home. That was my one and only goal. Did not perform the way I wanted to, but this is not the end though. I’ll be back stronger and hungrier than before,” said Kevin Wong.
Jack Wong and Jackie Tang did well to wrestle the second set against No. 15 seed Lim Yong-Kyu and Kwon Soon-Woo and they went ahead 6-5 in the third set super-tiebreak before the Koreans edged the HK duo, 6-1, 5-7, [10-7].
In 2014, Lim Yong-Kyu partnered Chung Hyeon to win the gold medal in men’s doubles after the Koreans managed to save multiple match points against Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan in the semis.
The gold medal went to India’s Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, who beat surprise package Aleksandr Bublik and Denis Yevseyev of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 6-4.
In men’s singles, Jack Wong and Jackie Tang both advanced to round two before falling to seeded players. While Tang had no answer to the ultra-consistent Korean No. 9 seed Kwon Soon-Woo, Wong held a set point in the second against No. 2 seed Ramkumar Ramanathan with the 134th-ranked Indian serving at 4-5, 30-40. However, Ramanathan managed to run down a short backhand volley to force a tiebreak, which the ATP Newport finalist played well enough to win, 6-0, 7-6(4).
Top seed Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan defeated China’s rising young star Wu Yibing, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(2), to claim the coveted gold medal in men’s singles.
In women’s doubles, China’s second-seeded Xu Yifan and Yang Zhaoxuan upset pre-Games favourite Latisha Chan and Angel Chan of Chinese Taipei in the final when they saved a pair of match points late in the third set super-tiebreak to win, 6-2, 1-6, [11-9].
HKTA Hall of Famer, Tsui Yuen Yuen, delivered Hong Kong’s best result at the Asian Games when she teamed up with Ranjani Jayasurya of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to capture a silver medal in women’s doubles at the 4th Asiad in Jakarta in 1962.
18th Asian Games
August 19-25, 2018
Jackie Tang (HKG) d. Federico Sarmento (TLS) 6-0 6-0
Jack Wong (HKG) d. Jabor Almutawa (QAT) 6-3 6-3
(9)Kwon Soon-Woo (KOR) d. Jackie Tang (HKG) 6-0 6-1
(2)Ramkumar Ramanathan (IND) d. Jack Wong (HKG) 6-0 7-6(4)
Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Mayanka Rana (NEP) 6-0 6-1
Eudice Chong (HKG) d. (3)Luksika Kumkhum (THA) 4-6 7-6(6) 7-6(1)
(13)Zhang Ling (HKG) d. Ksenia Palkina (KGZ) W/O
Eudice Chong (HKG) d. (14)Chang Kai-Chen (TPE) 6-0 6-2
(13)Zhang Ling (HKG) d. (4)Sabina Sharipova (UZB) 7-5 3-6 7-5
(6)Ankita Raina (IND) d. Eudice Chong (HKG) 6-4 6-1
(11)Liang En-Shuo (TPE) d. (13)Zhang Ling (HKG) 6-2 6-0
(9)Kevin Wong/Brian Yeung (HKG) d. Shahin Khaledan/Mohammad Kargaranoroochi (IRI) 6-4 6-2
(15)Lim Yong-Kyu/Kwon Soon-Woo (KOR) d. Jack Wong/Jackie Tang (HKG) 6-1 5-7 [10-7]
Yosuke Watanuki/Yuya Ito (JPN) d. (9)Kevin Wong/Brian Yeung (HKG) 6-4 6-4
Dariya Detkovskaya/Zhibek Kulambayeva (KAZ) d. Ng Kwan Yau/Wu Ho Ching (HKG) 6-2 6-3
(16)Kevin Wong/Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Samrakshyak Bajracharya/Anne Mathema (NEP) 6-1 6-0
(14)Brian Yeung/Zhang Ling (HKG) d. Pranav Khanal/Mahika Rana (NEP) 6-0 6-1
(4)Rohan Bopanna/Ankita Raina (IND) d. (16)Kevin Wong/Eudice Chong (HKG) 6-4 6-4
(14)Brian Yeung/Zhang Ling (HKG) d. (3)Gong Mao-Xin/Yang Zhaoxuan (CHN) 4-6 6-4 [10-7]
(5)Sonchat Ratiwatana/Luksika Kumkhum (THA) d. (14)Brian Yeung/Zhang Ling (HKG) 7-5 6-3