At the Hong Kong Tennis Champions Cup 2018, British outfit Joe Salisbury and Jonny O’Mara edged Jonathan Marray and Andrew Whittington, 6-3, 6-7(6), [10-5], to lift the title. Third place went to India’s Rohan Bopanna and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who saw off local entry Brian Yeung and Jack Wong, 6-3, 6-4, in a playoff.
For their efforts, Salisbury and O’Mara took home a winner’s cheque worth HK$200,000, the biggest payout in the tournament’s 15-year history.
“The new set-up was genuinely a hit with both players and spectators,” said CBGCC Tennis Director, Stephen So, who won this event in 2003 with Benny Lin. “The players like the quick format but also heightened the importance of every point, which can alter the outcomes significantly, as demonstrated by the HK pair who stole a semifinal berth from the top 40 team of Sitak and Sharan.”
“Spectators also loved the fast-paced arrangement, which created more excitement and the chance to see their favourite players more often with a possible of four matches on the cards during the group stage. The doubling of prize money this year also meant it was the highest quality field we’ve had at Clearwater Bay, which did not go unnoticed by the fans,” he added.
Servers dominated the opener of the final, with only the fourth game extended to deuce and that was where Marray, the 2012 Wimbledon champion, yielded his service game. The lone break was all Salisbury and O’Mara, world ranked at career-highs No. 30 and No. 62 respectively, needed to snag the set 6-3.
The second set unfolded in a manner eerily similar to the first, with Marray again blinking first to concede his serve in the third game before O’Mara consolidated at love to lead 3-1.
Then at 5-4, Salisbury, who had lost just three points in five service games up to this point, failed to serve out the match, as he squandered a pair of match points, first at 40-30, then followed by O’Mara’s miscue at the top of the net on sudden death deuce.
Marray and O’Mara then held serve to send proceedings to a tiebreak, 6-6.
With Whittington starting off, the opening ten points all went with serve until Salisbury coughed up a mini-break to fall behind 6-5. With set point in hand, however, Marray could not convert, as the UK duo fought back to a 6-6 impasse.
The former Wimbledon champion then stood tall to hold for 7-6 before O’Mara conceded another point on serve to lose the breaker, 8-6.
Needing a third set super-tiebreak for a verdict, Whittington, who has been uber dependable on serve all match long, gave up a mini-break bright and early before he managed to hold to trail 2-1. O’Mara then chimed in with two solid holds to extend the lead to 4-1.
Marray could only seal one of his next two serves, as the British-Aussie pair fell further behind by the score of 5-2. Seizing the momentum, Salisbury stepped in with consecutive holds, the second one with an ace, to push the advantage up to 7-2.
With emotions now running high, Whittington again yielded a mini-break due to a great inside-out forehand return from Salisbury before the Aussie held to make it 8-3. Seeing the finish line almost within reach, however, O’Mara double-faulted and then gave up a second straight mini-break to allow Marray and Whittington to peg the score momentarily back to 8-5.
However, Marray failed to find a first serve in the next two points and Salisbury and O’Mara both produced timely service returns and stretch volleys in the forecourt to strong-arm consecutive mini-breaks to wrap up the set and the match, 6-3, 6-7(6), [10-5].
Salisbury and O’Mara both won twice on the ATP Tour this season, with the former producing the goods in Vienna and Shenzhen, while the latter bagged Stockholm and Eastbourne.
Marray captured the coveted Wimbledon title in 2012 and was ranked as high as No. 15 in the world, while Whittington was a semifinalist at the 2017 Australian Open and peaked at No. 74 back in January this year.
Earlier in the group stage, Artem Sitak and Divij Sharan, world ranked No. 34 and 39 respectively, went 1-3 rather unexpectedly. Although they ended with the same win-loss record as Brian Yeung and Jack Wong, the boys from Hong Kong went through to the semis because of their head-to-head, 4-5, 4-2, [10-5], win against the New Zealand-Indian pair.
This season, Sitak and Sharan reached the semis at Antwerp, Basel, and Den Bosch, as well as the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
“We played surprisingly well,” said Jack Wong. “Always happy to play this event and it’s good to end the year on a positive note.”
This is the second time Jack Wong has reached the semifinals at the Hong Kong Tennis Champions Cup. In 2015, he teamed up with Karan Rastogi to beat eventual champion John Peers and Chris Eaton in the group stage to qualify.
“Happy with my overall performance, but I think our focus dropped a little on Sunday,” said Brian Yeung. “I saw a lot watching the final, especially how they stepped up and delivered on big points. Going forward, I need to put in more work on execution and staying more consistent for the duration of the match.”
Tournament Director Lam Siu Wai reflected, “The HKTCC has always been more than just a tournament. It also serves as a key platform to nurture the development of tennis in Hong Kong and around the region. As we saw this weekend, Brian and Jack went toe-to-toe with some of the world’s top doubles players and managed to reach the semifinal. Hopefully, they can take this experience and bolster their confidence for future tournaments.”
“At the same time, we are delighted to see our progress made in public involvement. For example, the collaboration with HKTA’s flagship community engagement programme, Tennis Rocks, has given us the opportunity to embrace the participation of over 400 local kids and seniors. Who knows, in a few years’ time, who is to say one of these kids can’t be competing for honours in our tournament?”
Hong Kong Tennis Champions Cup
Clearwater Bay Golf & Country Club
December 8-9, 2018
Joe Salisbury/Jonny O’Mara (GBR) d. Brian Yeung/Jack Wong (HKG) 6-3 7-6(7)
Jonathan Marray/Andrew Whittington (GBR/AUS) d. Rohan Bopanna/Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (IND) 7-6(4) 6-3
Joe Salisbury/Jonny O’Mara (GBR) d. Jonathan Marray/Andrew Whittington (GBR/AUS) 6-3 6-7(6) [10-5]