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Boys of ’01: Hong Kong’s debut at JDC Finals


Boys of ’01: Hong Kong’s debut at JDC Finals

In 1985, the ITF launched the World Youth Cup, the international team competition for players aged 16 & Under. It serves to give these young tennis players the opportunity to compete against their peers from around the world and the unique atmosphere of playing in a team setting representing their country.  In 2001, the trio of Jack Hui, Brian Hung, and Christian Frick placed second in Asia/Oceania to secure Hong Kong’s maiden passage to the World Finals.  With the team now truly in uncharted territory, the boys managed to garner a top 10 finish.  However, things were not looking so good early on at the Regionals, as their journey was almost grounded to a halt due to unforeseen circumstances.

In preparation, the boys competed at the Grade 3 Malaysian International Junior Championships, Grade 2 Mitsubishi-Lancer, and the Grade 3 Taipei International Junior Championships. The under-16 boys’ team landed in Jakarta for the Asia/Oceania qualifying as the top seed ahead of the Aussies at two and the Chinese at three.  In the round robins, Hong Kong drew Thailand and No. 7 seed Japan in Group I.  After getting past Thailand 2-1 to start off proceedings, Hong Kong faced off with the Japanese for a place in the knockout stage.  At No. 2 singles, Yu Haneishi overcame Brian Hung 6-2 7-6(4).  Trailing 1-0, Jack Hui is faced with a must-win situation at the one spot against Kenichiro Nakahara. However, after he jumped out to a 5-0 lead, he was confronted with breathing difficulties, gradually lost the lead, and started to struggle physically.  The trainer was called but the only on-court diagnosis he could recommend as the best option for the player was stoppage. Conceding the singles here would dash all hopes of advancing further, let alone a possible place in the World Finals.

The team captain was all but ready to make the go-ahead call to throw in the towel when Hui pleaded, practically begged, to get back out on court.   By now, the opposing players had gathered around the ailing HK No. 1, fanning him down with their towels in a scene fit for a Netflix show.  Although it did not seem likely he was going to take no for an answer, it was still a gutsy call for the team captain to make.  In the end, the kid’s conviction proved persuasive.

Hui resumed with the score tied at 5-5, 30-all in the first, a set he had led 5-0 at one stage. Right off the bat, remarkably, he threw down two thumping aces to hold serve. Then, he broke a stunned Nakahara to steal the opener 7-5 before getting his wind back to secure the second, 6-4.  In the deciding doubles, he teamed up with Brian Hung to come from a set down to win 4-6 6-4 6-1 to give the side a 2-1 victory and propelled the team to the quarterfinals.

Against No. 8 seed Malaysia, Hui and Hung combined to beat Adam Jaya and Dannio Yahya 6-3 6-7(3) 7-5 in the deciding doubles to reach the semifinals.  Yet, due to Chilean Jorge Aguilar and Guillermo Hormazabal’s defeat of China in the 15-16th Place Playoff at the World Finals twelve months earlier, only three spots were up for grabs in Asia/Oceania in 2001. Thus, Hong Kong must beat No. 5 seed Chinese Taipei next up in the semis to guarantee qualification.  Although Liu Tai-Wei managed to beat Jack Hui 3-6 6-0 6-4 at the one spot, the HK duo once again proved too strong in the deciding doubles, winning it in straight sets to go through to the final where they met No. 2 seed Australia, who barely got past the unseeded Koreans.  In fact, Korea took an early 1-0 lead after Nam Hyun-Woo shocked Adam Feeney 6-3 6-3 at the two spot.   At No. 1 singles, Chris Guccione, a future junior world No. 8 and ATP No. 67, conceded the second set before he overcame Kim Seong-Kwan 6-3 3-6 6-3.  In the deciding doubles, Guccione and Fotis Fotakis squeezed past Kim and Nam courtesy of a third set super-tiebreak 6-4 3-6 [10-8].

In the final, Adam Feeney, who peaked at No. 22 in singles and No. 3 in doubles in 2003, defeated Brian Hung at the two spot 6-3 6-7(5) 6-3.  Then, Guccione saw off Jack Hui at No. 1 singles 6-3 2-6 6-2.  Guccione and Fotis Fotakis then wrapped up the 3-0 victory with a 7-6(4) 7-6(3) decision against Hung and Christian Frick in the dead rubber doubles.  Hong Kong’s second place at the Asia/Oceania qualifying remained the benchmark until 2019 when the trio of Coleman Wong, Tim Gauntlet, and Oscar Wai equalled that feat.  As it turned out, it was the Jack Hui/Brian Hung doubles combination that brought the team the clinching point in every match through to the final.  Upon returning to Hong Kong, the breathing complications experienced by Hui turned out to be supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), an arrhythmia causing erratic heartbeats, palpitation, and breathing difficulties that required laser surgery.

“Other than the fact that Jack literally had a heart attack on court, I’d say my biggest memory was the quarterfinal against Malaysia. The deciding doubles was so tight and I remember that day felt like it was never going to end because it was such an intense battle mentally.  We felt we could take on anyone with our doubles lineup, but this was the knockout stage, last chance to make a run for the Finals, so a lot was on the line, for everyone.  I can still remember very vividly to this day that moment we won the final point in the doubles.  We both dropped our racquets and went for a flying chest bump. Those were good times,” Hung reflected.

“The previous year, we lost to China in the Asia/Oceania third place playoff and failed to qualify because Japan was the host nation for the Finals and only three spots were available from our region.  We were absolutely devastated.  We swore if we get another shot at this, we’re going to get it done, no matter what.  So, 2001 was our last chance.  It would have been real disappointing if we didn’t make it.  We felt very confident with our doubles partnership, so if either Brian or I could get a win in singles, we’re good. We ended up winning four straight ties in the deciding doubles to reach the final during qualifying that year,” said Hui.

In preparation for the Finals, the boys were sent to New Zealand and Australia for three ITF tournaments in July, followed by three more on clay in Portugal in August.  Host nation Chile, featuring Jorge Aguilar and Guillermo Hormazabal in its lineup, was the top seed. The Germans, who won the European Qualifying, was seeded second.  The Spaniards, though missing their No. 2 Rafael Nadal who led them to the WJT title in 2000, remained formidable as the No. 3 seed with Nicolas Almagro at the helm.  Austria was seeded fourth.

With the NEC World Youth Cup Finals taking place less than five weeks following 9/11, Australia and USA pulled out citing security reasons.  In Santiago, which was contested on slow clay at high altitude (1,700 feet above sea-level) of Club Palestino, Hong Kong drew third-seeded Spain, No. 6 seed Argentina, and Brazil in Group Three.  The Spaniards, led by future ATP No. 9 Nicolas Almagro, proved too strong, and ditto the Argentinians, led by future ATP No. 84, Martin Alund.

Against a stacked Brazilian team, however, Hung took opposing number two, Leonardo Kirche, to a third set before going down 6-3 3-6 6-2.  Hui then lost the opening set against Lenoir Ramos at the one spot before he produced a stirring 3-6 6-4 6-4 comeback win to send the tie to a deciding doubles. The HK duo then beat Kirche and Bruno Rosa 6-4 7-6(5) to secure the territory a spot in the 9th-12th Place Playoffs at the expense of Brazil.  With Rosa leading the team the following year, Brazil won the South American qualifying and returned to the World Finals as the No. 5 seed behind Rafael Nadal’s Spain, USA, Australia, and Gael Monfils’ French side.  Both Kirche and Rosa went on to reach No. 8 in the junior world rankings not long after the following year.

Hong Kong then beat Egypt 2-1 before falling to Korea in the 9th-10th place playoff, thus laying claim to a top 10 finish amongst the world’s best at that age group.  The 2001 contingent was the first from Hong Kong to qualify for the World Finals since the event’s inception in 1985, an accomplishment that remained unmatched until 2011 when the team of Brian Yeung, Kevin Wong, and Jon Cho came third in Asia/Oceania qualifying behind top 2 seeds Japan and Australia to punch their ticket to San Luis Potosi.

“In the Finals, we were playing against the best in the world in our age-group. The competition is what we’ve always wanted. For an athlete, the euphoria from winning is amazing.  But in order to get there, you have to put in the work.  There are no short-cuts, no half-stepping, and never take things for granted.  Once you step on court, compete as hard as you can, knowing that you’ve given your all. At 16, players think there’s endless amount of opportunities, but they can come and go just as quickly.  Everybody has a different path, different journey, but in striving to become the best, you have to work the hardest and keep chasing it because giving up is simply not an option,” added Hui.

Jack Hui was a student at Diocesan Boys’ School when he started to train full-time at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) at age 16, but was forced to overcome career-ending surgeries the following two seasons.  He then played two years of California Community College tennis at College of the Desert, where he led the team to consecutive State Championships.  Individually, he finished with a end-of-season ranking of No. 2 in 2005 and No. 1 in 2006 along with winning that year’s State Championship in singles.  He earned All-America honours twice in singles and in doubles. He received scholarship offers from a number of schools, including Pepperdine, but ultimately accepted a full ride to transfer to UC Santa Barbara. He represented Hong Kong at the All China Games in 2005 and 2009, in addition to the World University Games in Izmur in 2005 and East Asian Games in 2009. He also played Davis Cup for Hong Kong in 2009, 2010, and 2012.  He has worked in finance since graduating from UCSB.

Brian Hung was a student at Sha Tin College when he started to train full-time at HKSI at age 16.  He captured a gold medal in singles for Hong Kong at the 2003 National Intercity Games (now National Youth Games). A 2008 Musial Awards honoree, he played four years at the University of Michigan as a scholarship athlete where he was ranked as high as No. 2 in doubles in addition to earning All-America honours. He represented Hong Kong at the Asian Games in 2002, All China Games in 2005 and 2009, East Asian Games in 2009, and the World University Games in Izmur in 2005. He also played Davis Cup for Hong Kong in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2009.  He has also worked in finance since graduating from Umich.


From 1988 to 2001, NEC was the title sponsor but the venue varied from year to year.  In 2002, the ITF re-branded the boys’ competition to Junior Davis Cup as part of a new deal with new title sponsor BNP Paribas. The girls’ competition was also changed to Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas in 2005 and then becoming the Junior Billie Jean King Cup in 2020. From its inaugural year when 44 nations took part, the event now features some 100 countries engaging in Regional Qualifying each year in order to earn a place in the World Finals, where the top 16 boys’ and girls’ teams from Africa, North/Central America, South America, Europe, and Asia/Oceania converge to compete for the title.

Past participants who have gone on to excel at the upper echelons of the men’s game included Jim Courier (USA, 1985-86), Todd Woodbridge (Australia, 1986-87), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (1990), Gustavo Kuerten (Brazil, 1992), Lleyton Hewitt (Australia, 1996), Rafael Nadal (Spain, 2002), Marin Cilic (Croatia, 2004), Alexander Zverev (Germany, 2013), Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov (Canada, 2015), and Carlos Alcaraz (Spain, 2018), to name a few.  In all, Hong Kong has reached the Junior Davis Cup World Finals six times (2001, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019).  In 2019, the team comprising Coleman Wong, Tim Gauntlett, and Oscar Wai placed 8th overall in Orlando, USA, setting a new benchmark for future JDC teams.

World Youth Cup Finals
Santiago, Chile
October 14-19, 2001

Final Positions (Brackets denote seedings):

1. Chile(1)
2. Germany(2)
3. Argentina(6)
4. Portugal(5)
5. Canada(8)
6. Spain(3)
7. Austria(4)
8. Russia(7)
9. Korea
10. Hong Kong
11. Egypt
12. Chinese Taipei
13. Brazil
14. El Salvador
15. Israel

Note: Defending champion Australia and USA withdrew

World Youth Cup Asia/Oceania Qualifying
Jakarta, Indonesia
May 8-13, 2001

Final Positions (Brackets denote seedings):

1. Australia(2)
2. Hong Kong(1)
3. Chinese Taipei(4)
4. Korea
5. Malaysia(8)
6. Japan(7)
7. New Zealand(5)
8. India(6)
9. Uzbekistan
10. China(3)
11. Thailand
12. Indonesia
13. Pakistan
14. Philippines