2020-07-13

Cody and Kai capture CRC Invitational 2020

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Cody and Kai capture CRC Invitational 2020

The CRC Hong Kong Elite Tennis Invitational 2020 concluded on Sunday with Kai Wai Yu defeating Sebastian Nothhaft, 7-5, 6-1, to win the men’s competition, while Cody Wong dropped the first set against Maggie Ng in the ladies』 final before tightening her grip down the stretch to cement an energy-sapping, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, victory.

Commissioner for Sports, Mr. Yeung Tak-keung, was in attendance and presided over the prize presentation ceremony.

In its support for local tennis and the overall effort to fight against COVID-19, a CRC Hong Kong Elite Tennis Invitational 2020 event was organised by the Chinese Recreation Club. Adhering to social distancing rules, it was not open to the general public but free livestreaming was made available for friendly viewing the entire week of the tournament.

Earlier, Day 3 began with much uncertainty on the men’s side, as it was still mathematically possible for a number of players to advance. In Group A, Sebastian Nothhaft, who was 0-2 heading into his last round robin match against Andy Lau, ended up winning, 6-3, 6-3, to qualify for the semifinals. Top seed Brian Yeung beat Lam Ching, 6-3, 7-6(6), to pick up his third victory in a row to book his spot.

In Group B, former Hong Kong Davis Cupper, Kelvin Lam, was the surprise package, as he emerged with three wins out of three to finish in first place. Kai Wai Yu, meanwhile, needed a last gasp decision over Jack Wong to progress in second place.

Over in the ladies』 section, with top seed Eudice Chong having pulled out with an injury, Tiffany Wu dominated Group A by notching three straight-set wins, while replacement Justine Leong did well by stepping in to beat Sheena Masuda to qualify in second place. In Group B, reigning three-time CRC Open ladies』 singles champion Cody Wong got past Maggie Ng, 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-4, in her final round robin outing with both eventually progressing to the semis.

Men’s – Group A
Brian Yeung (3-0)
Sebastian Nothhaft (1-2)
Andy Lau (1-2)
Lam Ching (1-2) 

Men’s – Group B
Kelvin Lam (3-0)
Kai Wai Yu (2-1)
Sunny Yue (1-2)
Jack Wong (0-3)

Ladies』 – Group A
Tiffany Wu (3-0)
Justine Leong (1-1)     
Jacqueline Lam (1-0)
Kelly Leung (0-3)

Ladies』 – Group B
Cody Wong (3-0)
Maggie Ng (2-1)
Ng Kwan Yau (1-2)
Venia Yeung (0-3)

(Eudice Chong and Sheena Masuda withdrew due to injury and replaced by Justine Leong and Jacqueline Lam)

In Saturday’s semifinals, in the pivotal seventh game of the first set, Nothhaft managed to save consecutive break points from 15-40 down to hold for a momentous 4-3 lead. Lam then conceded serve in the very next game, with Nothhaft holding confidently to seize the opener 6-3.

In the ensuing set, Lam drew first blood by breaking the left-hander from Baylor to arrive at 5-2 only to see his opponent strike back with three straight games to force a 5-5 impasse. Then, in the subsequent tiebreak, Lam squandered a pair of costly set points with a 6-4 lead in hand, as Nothhaft battled back to win, 6-3, 7-6(7).

In the opposite half of the draw, the ultra consistent Kai Wai Yu beat Brian Yeung in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. Yeung did well to battle back to 3-3 after Kai had opened the match with a three-game run. However, in the tenth game, Kai ripped a forehand service return down the line for a winner to go up 40-30 and broke Yeung for the set.

Yeung restored order momentarily by breaking the 19-year-old in the opening game of second, but the southpaw strung together a five-game heist to jump out to a whopping 5-1 lead and stayed tough to hold serve for victory.

In the ladies’ final, with the score at 2-2 in the first, Cody wasted a break point to allow Maggie to hold serve for 3-2. Although the junior world No. 18 refocused to break back for 4-3, Maggie registered consecutive love games to strong-arm the set, 6-3.

The players then exchanged a pair of breaks to start the second to take proceedings to 2-2. A protracted baseline battle unfolded until 5-5 when Cody threw down an off-pace kicker out wide for an ace to hold from 15-40 down. She then broke immediately in the ensuing game for 7-5 to even the match at a set apiece.

Cody then responded to a number of short second serves with quality returns to speed off to a double break 5-1 lead. Maggie countered immediately and dug deep to break Cody twice in a row to bring proceedings to an interesting 5-4. Cody regrouped confidently just in time to return the favour with a break of her own to win, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, in a tad over two and a half hours.

「One of the most important things is to get back to the rhythm of competing again. The tour is supposed to restart in August so hopefully everything is going to be okay and we can play tournaments,」 said Cody, who was facing French No. 1 Diane Parry for a place in the girls’ singles quarterfinals this time last year at Wimbledon.

In the men’s final, Sebastian Nothhaft overcame a slow start and a double break 0-4 deficit to claw his way back to a level-pegging 5-5 before several costly errors in the twelfth game forced him to cough up the first set 7-5.

Kai Wai Yu’s unwavering ground game proved to be the ultimate ubiquitous menace and it gradually turned into an uphill battle for Nothhaft, as Kai engineered a three-game roll to start the second and closed it out with three successive games also to claim a 7-5, 6-1 win.

「It was quite tough at the start of the week, as I was feeling awfully rusty and because of some other minor problems, I couldn’t really train regularly the few weeks coming into the tournament,」 said Nothhaft. 「But, I slowly found form and fitness to make it a fight and just thought it was an awesome experience for everybody to get back to competitive tennis. I really enjoyed it out there.」

Nothhaft faced off with Kai in the boys』 singles final at the GB1 Seogwipo Asia/Oceania Closed Junior Championships last November when the former triumphed, 7-6(3), 0-6, 7-6(6), to propel to a career-high No. 72 in the world, while the latter also peaked at No. 89.

「In terms of shot-selection and strategy, I didn’t do a good job today. Too many times, I was pulling the trigger on the wrong shots when I was serving and I also played too much to his backhand,」 Nothhaft lamented. 「It was an awesome event and really good for the players. Definitely appreciate all the sponsors, the organisers, the officials, the staff, and CRC the club that made this possible.」

Nothhaft’s last competitive outing prior to this week was Baylor’s dual-match against Arizona State on March 7. Kai’s most recent ITF World Tennis Tour match came at the end of February at the M15 Monastir before he played against Poland in the reverse dead rubber during the Davis Cup World Group II Playoff tie in Kalisz also on March 7.

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Results
CRC Hong Kong Elite Tennis Invitational 2020
Chinese Recreation Club
July 5-12, 2020

Men’s Singles
– Semifinals
Kai Wai Yu d. Brian Yeung 6-4 6-2
Sebastian Nothhaft d. Kelvin Lam 6-3 7-6(7)

– Final
Kai Wai Yu d. Sebastian Nothhaft 7-5 6-1

Ladies』 Singles
– Semifinals
Maggie Ng d. Tiffany Wu 6-4 6-3
Cody Wong d. Justine Leong 6-1 6-3

– Final
Cody Wong d. Maggie Ng 3-6 7-5 6-4

Photos: @crcopen