- Published on Monday, 15 July 2019 15:40
- Written by Andy Yanne
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At the World University Games in Naples, Italy, Eudice Chong captured Hong Kong's first-ever singles medal and secured an additional bronze together with Maggie Ng in the women's doubles. The Wesleyan grad set another precedent as the first player from Hong Kong to medal twice in tennis at the same Universiade.
Kevin Wong (Michigan) and Brian Yeung (Harvard) garnered Hong Kong's only previous medal in tennis at the World University Games when they claimed a bronze in men's doubles in Taipei in 2017.
"We are extremely proud of Eudice and Maggie for bringing home the medals," said HKTA President, Philip Mok. "Both have worked so hard to pursue professional careers and I am sure this will give them the confidence and belief that they have what it takes to succeed on the tour. Young players could learn from their attitude and work ethic."
In women's singles, Chong, seeded 6th, romped through the opening rounds, scoring straight-set victories over Sweden's Rebecca Gustafsson, Indonesia's Arrum Damasari, and France's Margaux Orange. Then, she ran into a bit of bother in the quarterfinals against Belarussian teenager Anna Kubareva, as she dropped the opening set before powering down the stretch to progress with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, decision. Kubareva had earlier knocked out Czech Republic's top-seeded WTA No. 206 Anastasia Zarycka in straight sets.
However, in the ensuing semifinal, the Hong Kong representative could not find the lines with sufficient consistency against British No. 16 seed Emily Arbuthnott (Stanford) and was forced to settle for a bronze following a 6-3, 6-1, defeat. Since there is no playoff for 3rd place, the semifinalist is assured of a medal without exception.
"I'm definitely disappointed that I wasn't able to reach the finals for both events but, at the same time, I'm really happy to have made it through to the medal rounds," Chong reflected. "Representing Hong Kong is always such an honour, and to be able to come home this time with two medals is something I couldn't be prouder of."
Earlier this year, Chong reached the 25K Namangan singles final and semis at the 15K Xiamen, while in doubles won the 25K Andijan and Namangan titles and finished runner-up at the 25K Singapore and 15K Nanchang. She peaked at a career-high WTA No. 394 in singles and No. 297 in doubles.
Arbuthnott is a singles All-American and played an integral part in Stanford's back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2018 and 2019. Although she has a modest WTA top 800 ranking at present and last won a singles title at the 15K Hammamet in 2017, the Brit is a tenacious, counter-punching clay-courter, who is anything but easy to put away. As a junior, she reached a career-best No. 30 in the world and was the British No. 1 in the under-14, under-16, and under-18 age groups.
Meanwhile, Maggie Ng, who is seeded No. 11, was upset by Indonesia's Deria Nur Haliza, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in a hard-fought second round encounter.
In women's doubles, fourth seed Eudice Chong and Maggie Ng defeated Korea's Ahn Yu Jin and Jeong Yeong Won, 6-1, 6-4, in the opening round before registering a last sixteen victory against Italy's Camilla Abbate and Natasha Piludu, 6-2, 6-3, to set up a quarterfinal date with Britain's Emily Arbuthnott and Holly Hutchinson (Old Dominion).
The score was tied at a set apiece after the British combo came back to take the second resoundingly 6-1, and with a medal at stake, proceedings went to a deciding super-tiebreak.
With tension seemingly headed towards a tailspin, it was a seesaw battle until Chong took the initiative and crossed over for a forehand intercept with the score teetering precariously at 8-7. That resulted in a weak reply from the Brits and the former Wesleyan No. 1 was quick to recover laterally in time for the winning backhand volley to push the super-breaker to the brink, 9-7. Hutchinson then shanked a first serve from Ng just beyond the baseline to end the contest, 7-6(4), 1-6, [10-7].
A doubles All-American, Arbuthnott has been part of Stanford's No. 1 doubles pairing every season since joining the Cardinals as freshman three years ago. She was ranked as high as WTA No. 320 in doubles and claimed a pair of 25K titles at Ystad and Alkmaar on clay in the lead-up to the World University Games. In fact, seven of her eleven career pro circuit doubles titles have come on the slow stuff.
Then, in the ensuing semifinals, Chong and Ng lost the open set 6-1 to No. 2 seed Lee Ya-Hsuan (National Taiwan Sport) and Lee Pei-Chi but responded well to rattle the Taiwanese pair into a string of miscues to concede the second. However, Lee and Lee managed to recuperate and made the steadier plays towards the business end to deny the Hong Kong representatives a chance to go for gold with a 6-1, 3-6, [10-7], victory.
Ng commented, "It felt great reaching the semifinals in my first Universiade. We didn't pull it off in the semis, but I learned a lot and it's definitely a wonderful experience that will stay in my heart forever."
Lee Ya-Hsuan has won seven pro circuit doubles titles, including a 125K event, while Lee Pei-Chi has thirteen career wins with a 25K on clay right before the Universiade.
Elsewhere, in men's singles, Jackie Tang (Columbia) beat Ivan Liutarevich of Belarus in a protracted combat, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, to reach the last sixteen before exiting at the hands of French No. 9 seed Lucas Poullain (Florida State), a redshirt senior who was ranked in the top 20 in NCAA Division I singles. In Gwangju in 2015, Poullain took then top-seeded favourite Chung Hyeon to a deciding set in the semifinals before he was beaten by the eventual gold medallist, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).
Lam Ching (Brown) saw off Uganda's Jonathan Mugisha (FASU), 6-0, 6-0, before he bowed out in the third round against Japanese No. 13 seed Sho Shimabukuro (Waseda), who captured a bronze medal in men's doubles at the 2018 Asian Games.
In men's doubles, Jackie Tang and Lam Ching were eliminated in the last sixteen by French No. 5 seed Ronan Joncour and Lucas Poullain, 6-4, 7-5. In mixed doubles, Jackie Tang and Eudice Chong were beaten by British pair Scott Duncan (Stirling) and Emily Arbuthnott in the first round, 6-3, 6-7(6), [10-7]. Interestingly, this meant Chong was drawn against Arbuthnott three times in Naples − women's singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
Italy last hosted the World University Games in Sicily in 1997 where Rudy Chung (HKU), John Hui (Pepperdine), and Jackie Fu (Yale) represented the territory. That year, former HKTA Head Coach, Benny Lin, won a bronze in men's singles and a silver in mixed doubles together with Wang Shi-Ting.
The International Confederation of Students (ICS) was established in 1919 and it was this organisation's Sports Committee that launched the first World University Games in 1923 in Paris, France. After WW2, the International Students Union (ISU) was created in Prague in 1946 to pursue the works of the International Confederation of Students, and it organised the 9th World University Games in 1947.
In 1948, FISU (International University Sports Federation) was founded within universities to promote sporting values and to encourage top performances in international competitions in harmony with and complimentary to the values of higher education. It launched the International University Sport Weeks in 1949 in Merano, Italy, followed by Luxembourg in 1951, Dortmund in 1953, and San Sebastian in 1955.
In 1957, the French federation organised a World University Sports Championship, which brought together students from the Eastern and Western blocks. From this meet arose the desire to organise a universal event in which students from all over the world could participate.
In 1959, FISU and the ISU agreed to participate in the games organised in Turin, Italy, by CUSI, the Italian Student Sports Association. These 1959 games were baptised the "Universiade" and a flag with a "U" surrounded by stars was created, thus beginning its journey around the world. The next Summer Universiade will take place in Chengdu, China, in 2021.
30th World University Games
July 5-13, 2019
Gold: (9)Naho Sato (JPN)
Silver: (16)Emily Arbuthnott (GBR)
Bronze: (6)Eudice Chong (HKG)
Bronze: (7)Chompoothip Jundakate (THA)
Gold: (1)Guo Hanyu/Ye Qiu Yu (CHN)
Silver: (2)Lee Ya-Hsuan/Lee Pei-Chi (TPE)
Bronze: (4)Eudice Chong/Maggie Ng (HKG)
Bronze: (5)Naho Sato/Kanako Morisaki (JPN)
Photos by Clicks Images