Hong Kong’s first appearance at the World Junior Tennis Finals in Prostejov did not disappoint, as the EFG under-14 girls』 trio of Cody Wong, Jenny Wong, and Lin Wing Ka placed sixth out of sixteen teams, ahead of every Asian contingent this year including traditional powerhouses Japan and Korea.
「Congratulations to the team for achieving their target of a top 8 finish. Once again, they showed that they can match with the best of their age group in the world. It’s important that we continue to give them the appropriate support so that they can repeat these successes for years to come,」 says HKTA President, Philip Mok.
Hong Kong, seeded fifth, began proceedings with a pair of solid 2-1 victories over Slovenia and Argentina to go atop Group A along side No. 1 seed Ukraine.
Unlike the Regional Qualifying, only the four group winners of the WJT Finals can advance to the 1st-4th Place Playoffs, while the group runners-up will contend with the 5th-8th Place Playoffs, and so on.
In the pivotal match-up against Ukraine, led by world No. 109 Marta Kostyuk, both Cody and Jenny Wong fought hard in their respective singles but they were unable to overcome their higher-ranked opponents, who also hold an upper hand on the slow red dirt.
The loss meant Hong Kong progressing to the 5th-8th Place Playoffs against the Group B runner-up in the opening match.
If results elsewhere panned out according to seeding, Japan would have been the next opponents. However, Ecuador’s huge upset on opening day against Himari Sato and the 6th-seeded Japanese allowed the South Americans to grab second position in Group B instead.
So, against Ecuador, after Cody Wong gave the team another handy 1-0 lead, Jenny Wong’s opponent, COSAT No. 5 Mell Elizabeth Reasco, retired in the middle of the second set when trailing, 7-5, 1-4. Lin Wing Ka then teamed up with Jenny Wong to win the doubles in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, to complete the 3-0 score line.
With this win, Hong Kong headed to the 5th-6th Place Playoff against a Slovakian team that currently features ETA under-14 number twenty-five Nina Stankovska and ETA under-14 number five Romana Cisovska.
At No. 2 singles, Stankovska subdued Cody Wong in two tiebreak sets, 7-6(1), 7-6(4). Facing a 1-0 deficit and a must win situation, Jenny Wong was unable to overcome opposing number one, Romana Cisovska, and went down in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Despite the loss, Hong Kong’s WJT girls』 team finishes in 6th position, its highest to date since ITF inaugurated the competition in 1991. In fact, the 2016 team is the first girls』 team from Hong Kong to qualify for the WJT Finals.
Final positions (Brackets denote seeding):
- (3)Czech Republic
- (5)Hong Kong
- South Africa
「Considering this is the first time our girls are competing in a world class competition on red clay, which favours the more experienced clay specialists of Europe and South America. Our girls were fearless. No matter what team they faced or which player they encountered,」 says Team Captain, Leo Liu.
「Once the matches started, our players showed a lot of poise and confidence. Their willingness to fight and their determination to run after that extra ball really made up for whatever disadvantages we faced in other areas,」 he added.
「It was a great feeling to represent Hong Kong at the WJT Finals and finishing sixth was beyond any of our expectations. It was a memorable experience to go up against the best players in the world,」 said the girls.
Top seed Ukraine beat number two USA 2-1 in the final after Marta Kostyuk and Dasha Lopatetska came from a set down to beat Alexa Noel and Whitney Osuigwe, 3-6, 6-2, [10-6], in the deciding doubles.
Related story: Hong Kong claims first place at World Junior Tennis A/O Qualifying (30 Apr 2016)
The ITF started the World Junior Tennis (WJT) competition in 1991, with regional qualifying introduced the following year. The clay courts at the TK Plus Centre in Prostejov staged every WJT Finals since 1999. Notable past participants include Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Richard Gasquet, Lucie Safarova, Sloane Stephens and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, to name a few.
Now suspended, annual team competitions for under-18 juniors called the ITF Sunshine Cup (boys) and ITF Connolly Continental Cup (girls) did exist in the past. They were held in Key Biscayne the week following the Orange Bowl. Roger Federer and Juan Carlos Ferrero, for instance, competed in 1998.
Prostejov, Czech Republic
August 1-8, 2016
(5)Hong Kong d. Slovenia 2-1
R1 Cody Wong (HKG) d. Pia Lovric (SLO) 6-2 6-3
R2 Ziva Falkner (SLO) d. Jenny Wong (HKG) 6-3 6-1
R3 Cody Wong/Jenny Wong (HKG) d. Ziva Falkner/Pia Lovric (SLO) 3-6 6-3 [10-4]
(5)Hong Kong d. Argentina 2-1
R1 Cody Wong (HKG) d. Valentina Mutilba (ARG) 6-3 6-2
R2 Anna Geller (ARG) d. Jenny Wong (HKG) 6-4 6-2
R3 Cody Wong/Jenny Wong (HKG) d. Olivia Scattini/Valentina Mutilba (ARG) 6-0 6-1
(1)Ukraine d. (5)Hong Kong 2-1
R1 Daria Snigur (UKR) d. Cody Wong (HKG) 4-6 6-0 6-1
R2 Marta Kostyuk (UKR) d. Jenny Wong (HKG) 6-1 6-2
R3 Cody Wong/Jenny Wong (HKG) d. Daria Snigur/Dasha Lopatetska (UKR) 6-4 7-5
5th-8th Place Playoffs
(5)Hong Kong d. Ecuador 3-0
R1 Cody Wong (HKG) d. Ana Paula Yepez Ramia (ECU) 6-3 6-3
R2 Jenny Wong (HKG) d. Mell Elizabeth Reasco (ECU) 7-5 1-4 Retired
R3 Jenny Wong/Lin Wing Ka (HKG) d. Ana Belen Leon Armendariz/Ana Paula Yepez Ramia (ECU) 6-3 6-4
5th-6th Place Playoff
Slovakia d. (5)Hong Kong 2-1
R1 Nina Stankovska (SVK) d. Cody Wong (HKG) 7-6(1) 7-6(4)
R2 Romana Cisovska (SVK) d. Jenny Wong (HKG) 6-4 6-2
R3 Jenny Wong/Lin Wing Ka (HKG) d. Sara Suchankova/Romana Cisovska (SVK) 7-6(8) 5-7 [10-4]