18th Asian Games, Jakarta Palembang 2018

 

A squad of eight-strong comprising Kevin Wong, Jack Wong, Brian Yeung, Jackie Tang, Zhang Ling, Eudice Chong, Ng Kwan Yau, and Wu Ho Ching will represent Hong Kong at the upcoming 18th Asian Games. The tennis competition will take place during the week of August 19.

 

Men's Singles: Jack Wong, Jackie Tang
Men's Doubles: Jack Wong/Jackie Tang, Kevin Wong/Brian Yeung
Women's Singles: Zhang Ling, Eudice Chong
Women's Doubles: Ng Kwan Yau/Wu Ho Ching
Mixed Doubles: Kevin Wong/Eudice Chong, Brian Yeung/Zhang Ling

 

HKTA President Philip Mok remarked, "It's not going to be easy, but it doesn't mean we don't have a chance to medal. Zhang Ling, for instance, was just one win away from a bronze in women's singles four years ago, while our men's doubles team of Kevin Wong and Brain Yeung has been in good form of late, winning pro circuit titles in Hong Kong and Taipei. Also, we are not without a chance in the mixed doubles."

 

A total of five golds, five silvers, and ten bronze medals will be up for grabs in men's & women's singles and doubles, in addition to mixed doubles. There will be no playoff for bronze medals. All losing semifinalists will receive bronze medals. All singles and doubles matches at the 18th Asian Games shall be the best of three tiebreak sets.

 

Day 1 (Aug 19) of the competition will consist of singles and mixed doubles matches, starting at 10am. The women's singles and men's doubles finals are scheduled for Day 6 (Aug 24), and men's singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles finals will take place on Day 7 (Aug 25).

 

The JSC Tennis Courts in Jakabaring City, Palembang, is the venue for the tennis competition. There are sixteen courts in total, with Centre Court seating capacity being 1,600. The courts are within walking distance from the Athlete's Village.

 

Three juniors – Sheena Masuda Karrasch, Jenny Wong, and Sunny Yue – are selected to join fifteen other youngsters on the "Panasonic 18 Young Athletes Asian Games Tour" for a six-day visit to Indonesia.

 

Brief History

 

The inaugural Asian Games was held in New Delhi in 1951, but tennis did not become a medal sport until the 3rd edition in Tokyo in 1958.  Apart from the 6th Asian Games in Bangkok in 1970, men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles have been contested each time.  Men's and women's team events were contested since 1962, but these will not be played in 2018.

 

The only player from Hong Kong to medal at the Asian Games was Tsui Yuen Yuen, who won a silver in women's doubles together with Ranjani Jayasurya at the 4th Asian Games in Jakarta in 1962.  The HK-Ceylon duo defeated Philippines' Desideria Ampon and Patricia Yngayo, the 1958 silver medallists, in the semis before finishing runner-up to Japan's Akiko Fukui and Reiko Miyagi.

 

Fukui and Miyagi were the dominant players at the Asian Games in 1962, as they captured gold and silver in both women's singles and mixed doubles and led Japan to triumph in the women's team event.  Back home, Miyagi won eight consecutive women's singles titles at the All Japan Championships from 1956-1963.

 

17th Asian Games Incheon

 

The 17th Asian Games in Incheon in 2014 saw fifth seed Yoshihito Nishioka, then ranked No. 167, defeat top-seeded ATP No. 37 Lu Yen-Hsun for the gold in men's singles, while the bronze went to third seed Yuichi Sugita and fourth seed Yuki Bhambri.  Kazakhstan's trio of Andrey Golubev (No. 62), Mikhail Kukushkin (No. 73), and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (No. 99) all opted for the team event rather than singles, as did Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin (No. 55), who would have been the second seed.

The host nation's 8th-seeded Chung Hyeon and Lim Yong-kyu beat India's No. 5 seed Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh to claim the gold in men's doubles, with the bronze going to the top-seeded Ratiwatana Brothers and No. 4 Yuki Bhambri and Divij Sharan.

 

Bhambri and Sharan had accounted for Kevin Wong and Brian Yeung in the second round, 6-2, 6-3, while China's Li Zhe and Gong Mao-Xin were seeded 6th but they went out in the quarterfinal, 7-6(4), 7-5, to the Thais.  Treat Huey and Ruben Gonzales were seeded second but they suffered a one-sided 6-0, 6-3, loss to the eventual champions in the quarters also.  Taiwan's No. 3 seed Chen Ti and Peng Hsien-Yin were stopped short of the medal round by Myneni and Singh in a 6-2, 7-6(10), defeat.

 

Zhang Ling, who was the eighth seed, reached the women's singles quarterfinal before bowing out, 6-4, 6-4, to No. 2 seed Wang Qiang of China, who went on to beat Thailand's top-seeded Luksika Kumkhum, 6-3, 7-6(5), in the final.  Bronze went to third seed Misa Eguchi after she defeated Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, in the round of eight, and sixth seed Eri Hozumi, who beat fourth seed Duan Ying-Ying, 6-2, 7-5, in the other quarterfinal.

 

In the women's doubles, Zhang Ling and Eudice Chong were knocked out in round two, 6-4, 6-4, by seventh seed Luksika Kumkhum and veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, who upset top seed Latisha Chan and Chan Hao-Ching in the semis before they saw off second seed Hsieh Su-Wei and Chan Chin-Wei in the final, 5-7, 6-3, [10-3].  Sania Mirza and Prarthana Thombare had to settle for a bronze after losing to Hsieh and Chan in the semis, 7-6(1), 2-6, [10-4].

The mixed doubles went to second seed Saketh Myneni and Sania Mirza after they scored a 6-4, 6-3, victory over top-seeded Peng Hsien-Yin and Chan Hao-Ching in the final.  China's Zhang Ze and Zheng Jie, and Japan's Yuichi Sugita and Shuko Aoyama, were the bronze medallists.

 

Who's Playing

 

The ITF earlier announced that the men's and women's singles champions at this year's Asian Games will receive wildcards for the maindraw of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  The same arrangement also applies to the African Games in Zambia in 2019, while both winners and runners-up of the men's and women's singles from next year's Pan American Games in Lima will also qualify for the maindraw automatically.

 

Nevertheless, with the first round of the US Open starting on August 27 and qualifying taking place the week before, several players, especially on the men's side, have opted to skip the Asian Games and focus on the year's final Grand Slam instead.

 

For instance, with ATP No. 99 Yuki Bhambri being exempt, India nominated Ramkumar Ramanathan (No. 117), Prajnesh Gunneswaran (No. 171), Sumit Nagal (No. 299), and three doubles specialists – Leander Paes (No. 80), Rohan Bopanna (No. 28), and Divij Sharan (No. 38).  News from the Indian camp is that Bopanna and Sharan will collaborate, leaving Paes to pair up with one of the three singles specialists.

Paes, an 18-time Grand Slam doubles champion, has medalled eight times at the Asian Games over the years, but he has not competed in the quadrennial event since clinching golds in men's doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi and in mixed doubles with Sania Mirza in Doha in 2006.

None of Japan's top three players – Kei Nishikori (No. 22), Yuichi Sugita (No. 74), and Taro Daniel (No. 78) – are participating.  Instead, the Japanese are sending Yosuke Watanuki (No. 272), Yasutaka Uchiyama (No. 265, Doubles No. 103), Kaito Uesugi (Doubles No. 423), Sho Shimabukuro, and little known Yuya Ito.

Korean No. 1, Chung Hyeon (No. 23), Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin (No. 86), and Chinese Taipei's Lu Yen-Hsun (No. 156) will also be absent this year.

Uzbekistan's Denis Istomin (No. 75), who lost to India's Somdev Devvarman in the gold medal game in Guangzhou in 2010, will compete alongside modestly-ranked Farrukh Dustov and Sanjar Fayziev.


Chinese Taipei's quartet of Jason Jung (No. 115), Yang Tsung-Hua (No. 211), Hsieh Cheng-Peng (Doubles No. 114), and Peng Hsien-Yin (Doubles No. 120), as well as Kazakhstan's Aleksandr Bublik (No. 172), and Korea's Lee Duck Hee (No. 239) are expected to take part.

Zhang Ze (No. 182, Doubles No. 129), who just picked up his second career Challenger title, Wu Di (No. 275, Doubles No. 206), Gong Mao-Xin (Doubles No. 139), Li Zhe (No. 281, Doubles No. 194), Wu Yibing (No. 329), and Zhang Zhizhen (No. 425) will fly China's flag.

On the women's side, Japan's Naomi Osaka (No. 17), Chinese Taipei's Hsieh Su-Wei (No. 42), and Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva (No. 50) and Zarina Diyas (No. 63) have opted to skip the Asian Games.

Sania Mirza, who owns a silver and bronze in women's singles, a silver in the women's team event, a bronze in women's doubles, plus two golds, one silver, and a bronze in mixed doubles, will be missing in action this time round, as she is currently on maternity leave.

According to tennismagazine.jp, Miyu Kato (No. 168), Eri Hozumi (Doubles No. 33), Moyuka Uchijima (No. 370), Erina Hayashi (No. 991), and Makoto Ninomiya (Doubles No. 29) will contest the women's events for Japan.

Korea, meanwhile, has nominated a women's squad consisting of Han Na-Lae (No. 240), Jeong Sunam (No. 631), Choi Ji-Hee (No. 493), Kim Na-Ri (No. 534), and Lee So-Ra (No. 511), while Luksika Kumkhum (No. 91) Nicha Lertpitaksinchai (No. 792), and Peangtarn Plipuech (No. 275) will represent Thailand.

China nominated its strongest possible side featuring Zhang Shuai (No. 32), Wang Qiang (No. 53), Wang Yafan (No. 93), Duan Yingying (No. 110), Yang Zhaoxuan (Doubles No. 21), and Xu Yifan (Doubles No. 11).

Uzbek number one, Sabina Sharipova (No. 123), will spearhead her country's challenge.

"It's my first Asian Games, so I'm really looking forward to it.  I'm going to try my best and go as far as I possibly can," asserts Jack Wong.

"Last year's Universiade medal boosted our confidence, and we have been performing pretty well lately, so we would like to go for a place on the podium.  But we will take it one match at a time.  The level of tennis is going to be high, but I don't think any of our opponents are unbeatable when we are performing at our best," explains Brian Yeung.

 

"This will be my second time competing at the Asian Games, and it is such a huge privilege to be representing Hong Kong again.  I'm hoping all the preparation will pay off, and as a team, we are doing the best we can to put ourselves in a position to make some noise," projects Eudice Chong.

 

"Having had the experience of Guangzhou and Incheon, I think I have a calmer outlook and approach this time round. At the last Asian Games, I was one match away from a medal, so hopefully, we can make a breakthrough," says Zhang Ling. "I think China will once again pose the biggest challenge. Aside from Peng Shuai, all of its top players are competing."

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