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The year’s Asia/Oceania Group II took place in Kuala Lumpur during the week of August 8.   Hong Kong beat Vietnam, Iran, Chinese Taipei(1), and Laos to place 1st in Pool A and qualified for the promotion playoff against Pool B winner, Thailand.  The opposing singles players performed extremely well and defeated Hong Kong in a closely-fought contest 2-0.  Thailand is promoted to Asia/Oceania Group I next year, while Hong Kong will remain in Group II for 2023.

Ten nations are divided into 2 pools, with the winner of Pool A facing the winner of Pool B in a promotion playoff for a place in Group I in 2023.

Pool A: Chinese Taipei(1), Hong Kong, Iran, Vietnam, Laos
Pool B: Singapore(2), Thailand, Malaysia, Pacific Oceania, Maldives

Nominations: Eudice Chong, Adithya Karunaratne, Cody Wong, Tiffany Wu, Maggie Ng, Zhang Ling (Coach), Leo Liu (Captain).

After winning against Vietnam and Iran in the opening Pool A matches, Hong Kong faced top seed Chinese Taipei, an opponent the team has not beaten since 1995 in Asia/Oceania Group I behind Paulette Moreno and Willy Chan.  In the absence of veteran Hsieh Su-Wei (WTA No. 312 singles and No. 28 doubles), Chinese Taipei is led by 516th-ranked Lee Pei-Chi, who has beaten Eudice Chong twice in the juniors and is 2-2 against the Hong Kong No. 1 in pro circuit events.  In fact, they had already met twice earlier this year in late February and early March in Egypt with a victory apiece in W15 events and both matches, as always, went the distance.  However, Chong has made significant strides since returning full-time to the pro circuit last October, claiming a pair of singles and no less than 12 doubles titles to reach career-high WTA rankings of No. 292 in singles and No. 145 in doubles.

First off, 18-year-old Yang Ya Yi (WTA 673) surprised veteran Tiffany Wu (WTA 605) with a commendable display to give Chinese Taipei a quick 1-0 lead.  The face-off between the pair of No. 1s certainly reflected the discrepancy in rankings after Chong flew out of the blocks and conceded a paltry total of four points en route to a 6-0 first set.  Lee’s inability to find her first serves simply exerted too much undue pressure on her own service games and she struggled to stay afloat in the opener, with the HK rep dictating play and taking Lee from corner to corner in a one-sided onslaught.  The second set, however, began with six straight breaks of serve.  At 3-3, Chong finally held and proceeded to break her opponent again to consolidate for a 5-3 lead.  After she let slip a match point in the ensuing game and lost her serve, Chong eventually produced a love break at the end to warp up a roller-coaster second set, 6-4.

With the overall score tied at 1-1, Eudice Chong returned to court with Maggie Ng to face 18-year-olds Li Yu-Yun and Yang Ya Yi in the deciding doubles.  Despite the seemingly favourable scoreline for Hong Kong, the match was a topsy-turvy affair in which the HK duo saved all 16 break points they faced, while their Chinese Taipei counterparts also managed to ward off 9 of 12 of their own.  Chong and Ng were able to take advantage of three service breaks to win, 6-2, 6-4, to seal a 2-1 victory.  Hong Kong’s all-time head-to-head against Chinese Taipei in the Billie Jean King Cup now stands at 3-3.

Hong Kong then defeated Laos to finish atop Pool A to advance to Saturday’s promotion playoff against Pool B winners, Thailand, who is without it’s top 2 players Peangtarn Plipuech (WTA 407 singles, 128 doubles) and Luksika Kumkhum (WTA 419 singles, 481 doubles).  The match-up between 19-year-old Anchisa Chanta (WTA 704) and Tiffany Wu was a back and forth affair with both players exchanging a break of early serve.  Then at 4-4, Wu was unable to convert a game point and yielded her serve instead.  The Thai player duly held for 6-4 and now with a set lead in hand, she found a higher gear and ran away with three breaks in the second, winning it 6-1.  Chanta, who joined University of Oklahoma this January as a freshman, played an integral role in their women’s team historic season.  The Sooners reached the finals of both the ITA National Indoors and the NCAA Championships and the team finished the season ranked No. 2 in the nation.  Chanta went 10-0 at the No. 3 spot and 12-2 at the No. 4 position, including 8-0 in conference play where Oklahoma claimed the Big 12 title.  The Thai was ranked as high as No. 62 in D1 singles. At the 2021 Southeast Asian Games that was rescheduled for May 2022, Chanta won a silver in women’s singles, gold in women’s doubles, and another gold in the women’s team event.

After Patcharin Cheapchandej held to go up 1-0, she broke Chong for 2-0 only to see the HK rep respond in kind to peg the score back to 2-1.  However, the Thai managed to break again for 3-1 and in the pivotal fifth game, she saved two break points to consolidate for 4-1.  After Chong held  for 4-2, she broke Patcharin again to get back on serve, 4-3.  However, the Thai swiftly broke serve for the third time and held at 15 to snatch the opener, 6-3.  In the ensuing set, Patcharin broke Chong to love to move ahead 2-1.  Then, in the pivotal sixth game, Chong missed out on a break point opportunity, while her opponent wasted four game points before she finally held for 4-2.  Patcharin rode with the momentum and added an insurance break before she held at 15 to conclude a 6-3, 6-2, win to give Thailand a 2-0 victory.  Overall, Patcharin was 5 for 5 on break point conversion, and held a Total Points Won advantage of 71 compared to Chong’s 50.

Previously, in the 2018 Asia/Oceania Group I relegation playoff between Hong Kong and Thailand, Chong had beaten Patcharin, 6-3, 6-3, at No. 2 singles when the HK rep was actually ranked lower than her counterpart.  However, according to Team Coach, Zhang Ling, who also played in that tie 4 years ago, reported that Patcharin played extremely well, found her shots when she needed to, and put forth excellent defense as well to get the win.  At the 2021 Southeast Asian Games that was rescheduled for May 2022, Patcharin Cheapchandej won a silver in mixed doubles, gold in women’s doubles, and another gold in the women’s team event.

“In the round-robin stage, Hong Kong played exceptional to beat the No. 1-seeded Chinese Taipei team and qualified for the playoff as Pool A winner to face Pool B winner, Thailand. The Thai team, overall, performed very well on the day, while the pressure got to us a little bit, I think, and luck also wasn’t on our side today, with a number of 50-50 balls going against us instead.   Although we fell short, the players and the whole team all gave their best effort.  Hopefully, we can go one better next year,” said Captain Leo Liu

Retired since 2020, former Hong Kong No. 1 Zhang Ling, a Fed Cup stalwart for 11 years, took on the role of Team Coach for the first time.  “I feel very exited to be part of the team, but just in a different role.  For as long as I can remember, the priority was always on my own performance, how to play to win the match.  Now, that focus will be how to help our girls win. I’m happy I can share my experiences with them and influence them in a positive way, from studying opponents to planning tactics or taking care of them off court, whatever they need.  It’s still hugely satisfying for me,” says Zhang Ling.

With the win, Chinese Taipei is promoted to Asia/Oceania Group I for next year, while Hong Kong will remain in Group II for 2023.

Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas
Asia/Oceania Group II
National Tennis Center
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
August 8-13, 2022

Pool A
Hong Kong d. Vietnam 3-0

R1 Tiffany Wu (HKG) d. Sophia Huynh (VIE) 6-0 6-1 
R2 Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Savanna Ly-Nguyen (VIE) 6-4 2-6 6-2
R3 Tiffany Wu/Maggie Ng (HKG) d. Savanna Ly-Nguyen/Dao Minh Trang (VIE) 2-6 6-3 6-2

Hong Kong defeated Iran 3-0
R1 Tiffany Wu (HKG) d. Yasaman Yazdani (IRI) 6-1 6-0 
R2 Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Fatemeh Zanjani (IRI) 6-0 6-0
R3 Tiffany Wu/Maggie Ng (HKG) d. Nili Atfi/Mehraneh Zohourian (IRI) 6-1 6-0

Hong Kong defeated (1)Chinese Taipei 2-1
R1 Yang Ya Yi (TPE) d. Tiffany Wu (HKG) 6-1 6-1
R2 Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Lee Pei-Chi (TPE) 6-0 6-4
R3 Eudice Chong/Maggie Ng (HKG) d. Li Yu-Yun/Yang Ya Yi (TPE) 6-2 6-4

Hong Kong defeated Laos 3-0
R1 Tiffany Wu (HKG) d. Thirada Phommachack (LAO) 6-0 6-0
R2 Eudice Chong (HKG) d. Phonesamai Champamanivong (LAO) 6-0 6-0
R3 Tiffany Wu/Maggie Ng (HKG) d. Phonesamai Champamanivong/Vanvilay Xaiphengthong (LAO) 6-0 6-0

Promotion Playoff
Thailand defeated Hong Kong 2-0
R1 Anchisa Chanta (THA) d. Tiffany Wu (HKG) 6-4 6-1
R2 Patcharin Cheapchandej (THA) d. Eudice Chong (HKG) 6-3 6-2
R3 Not Played