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At the 31st FISU World University Games in Chengdu, the first-time partnership of Coleman Wong and Cody Wong has netted Hong Kong tennis a bronze medal in mixed doubles after the duo defeated No. 8 seed Josh Charlton and Amy Stevens 6-4 6-3 in the quarterfinals.  Although they were unable to advance further when Chinese fifth seed Jin Yuquan and Tang Qianhui defeated them 5-7 6-4 [10-5] in the semifinals, this marked the third WUG in a row that HK representatives have medalled in tennis. 

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At Taipei 2017, Kevin Wong (Michigan) and Brian Yeung (Harvard) wrote a new chapter in Hong Kong tennis history by claiming a maiden World University Games medal with a bronze in men’s doubles.  In Naples 2019, Eudice Chong (Wesleyan) brought home a bronze in women’s singles in addition to another bronze in women’s doubles together with Maggie Ng (PolyU).

Against Jin and Tang in the semis, break point opportunities in the opening set were few and far between.  The score was neck and neck until the twelfth game when the Chinese fifth seeds buckled first and coughed up the break, as the pair from Hong Kong took the set 7-5.  The two sides exchanged an early break in the second but Jin and Tang managed to capitalise on their second break point in the sixth game and held on for 6-4 to force a deciding set super-tiebreak.

After Coleman Wong held first for a 1-0 lead, the No. 5 seed forced two mini-breaks courtesy of Jin’s aggressive forecourt play and jumped out to a 6-1 lead, forcing the HK pair to play catch-up the rest of the wayr, as the Chinese opponents took care of their serves to win it 5-7 6-4 [10-5]. 

Tang, aged 22, held a career-high doubles ranking of No. 109 (3 Feb 2020) and she already has a pair of tour titles to her name together with Jiang Xinyu, winning back to back WTA 250 Nanchang Opens in 2017 and 2018.  They competed at the WTA Elite Trophy in Zhuhai three years in a row from 2017-2019, but after they beat Peng Shuai and Zhang Shuai in the opening round of the Shenzhen Open in January 2020, she has not played another match on the ITF World Tennis Tour until February this year.

Coleman, currently at a career-high No. 533 in singles, has improved close to a 100 places in the ATP rankings since claiming his first men’s singles title at the Tunisia F29 Futures in late June.  He also has two men’s doubles titles to his name, the $15,000 event in Manacor and the US$25,000 event at Tay Ninh, both from 2022.  He is currently ranked No. 644 in doubles after having peaked at No. 584 in February 2023.  Cody captured her first career W25 singles title earlier this year and reached a career-best No. 319 (26 Jun 2023).  Currently ranked No. 242 in doubles, she got to a career-high No. 156 (17 Oct 2022).

The quarterfinal match against Aussies Josh Charlton (Oregon) and Amy Stevens (Vanderbilt) was anything but easy.  The HK reps were forced to save three break points in the early going before converting their only chance in the tenth game to take the first set.  They then pounced on their lone break opportunity in the second game of the second set and held serve the rest of the way to win 6-4 6-3.

Charlton, a four-year letterman from the University of Oregon, was the ITA Northwest Region’s Most Improved Senior this past season.  The southpaw was ranked as high as No. 14 in singles and No. 8 in doubles collegiately as a sophomore.  He currently holds an ATP ranking of No. 1521 in singles and No. 997 in doubles.  In doubles, he has played only 5 events on the pro circuit in his career but reached back-to-back M25 finals in his most recent two in Darwin, Australia, in September 2022 and Columbus, Ohio, in November of same year.  Charlton, seeded 11th in Chengdu, went out in the second round of the men’s singles to eventual champion Henry von der Schulenburg (Harvard) in straight sets 6-2 7-6(2).

In women’s singles, No. 7 seed Adithya Karunaratne (WTA 383) was also one victory away from a medal but she drew a tough assignment when pitted against the 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist and No. 2 seed Liang En-Shuo (WTA 279) from Chinese Taipei.  Both players managed to stave off eight break points from one another, but Liang converted 5 of 13 of those chances, while Karunaratne went 3 of 11.  The HK rep did well to stay in the match by breaking her opponent when she was attempting to serve for it with a 5-4 second set lead in hand.  However, Liang, who was ranked as high as No. 150 in the world pre-COVID, broke back immediately for a 6-5 advantage and made no mistake the second time round to conclude matters for a 6-3 7-5 quarterfinal win. 

For 5th seed Cody Wong (WTA 332), she started her third round match against No. 11 seed Kim Dabin (WTA 604) of Korea by jumping out to a 5-2 lead when the onset of cramps – a common, involuntary, and unpredictable ailment – started to flare, especially when working hard in the heat.  Even though the HK rep forced herself over the finish line by eventually taking the first set 6-4, her play was clearly compromised, as she faced the prospect of an uphill battle the rest of the way.  Still, she fought valiantly to save 5 of 8 break points in the second set, but her inability to string together enough meaningful points to create break chances of her own began to take a physical toll.  Trailing 4-6 6-0 2-0, she was forced to retire prematurely, thus ending her quest for a medal in singles this time round.  The pair have met twice before on the pro circuit, with Cody winning 6-3 7-5 in the opening round at the W25 Kashiwa in April and the 26-year-old Kim returning the favour 6-3 6-2 in round two of the W25 Daegu in July.

In women’s d

oubles, fifth-seeded Cody Wong and Justine Leong were just shy of a medal when they held a match point leading 9-8 in the third set super-tiebreak before their second-seeded Japanese counterparts Misaki Matsuda and Ikumi Yamazaki fought back to win their women’s doubles quarterfinal 6-2 3-6 [11-9].  Matsuda and Yamazaki hold WTA rankings of No. 286 and No. 422 in doubles respectively and have between them eight career pro circuit titles to date.

In men’s singles, Roger Ng faced an inexperienced 19-year-old Arian Desvianto of Indonesia, but he was still made to work to earn his keeps before he managed to tally up 5 of 10 break points to win 6-2 6-3 on Centre Court on opening day.  Up next, he faced No. 10 seed Jeffrey von der Schulenburg of Switzerland, a former junior world No. 7 who has been plying his trade at the University of Virginia.  He made the singles field at the season-ending NCAA Championships the past three years and was an integral part of UVA’s back-to-back DI men’s tennis championship runs in 2022 and 2023.

Ng fell behind by an early break, trailed 4-2, and fought well to get back to 5-5 before his opponent managed to capitalise on the second of 7 break point chances to to grab the opener 7-5.  With a set in hand, the Swiss flew out of the gates to take a double break 4-0 lead in the second and then powered home with one last break to finish it 7-5 6-1.

In men’s singles, 19-year-old Coleman Wong drew Liam Krall of Southern Methodist University in the first round.  After holding for 1-0, the 6-foot-3 Krall took the only opportunity he would get in the set to break for 2-0.  He proceeded to save the two break points he faced to hold serve and strong-armed the opener 6-3.   In the second, servers dominated until the seventh game when the American capitalised on the lone opportunity he would get in the set and broke Wong to go up 4-3.  He then held firm the rest of the way for a 6-3 6-4 victory.  In totality, Krall saved all six break points he faced, while going a super efficient 2 of 2 on the other end. 

The top 3 seeds, however, all failed to reach the medal round.  In the final, Switzerland’s Henry von der Schulenburg (Harvard) defeated No. 4 seed Kasidit Samrej, son of former Thai Davis Cup stalwart Vittaya, to become the first player without an ATP ranking to win the World University Games men’s singles gold medal since American Richard Gallien (Pepperdine) last did it at Edmonton 1983.  The highest-ranked player to win was Czech Tomas Smid at Sofia 1977 when he held an ATP ranking of No. 75.

In men’s doubles, Marvin Lee/Ethan Leung saved a pair of match points when they trailed 9-7 in the third set super-tiebreak, and then had a chance to win it all when they regained the lead 10-9, before No. 7 seed Francisco Rocha/Tiago Torres (POR) took the last three points to seal a 7-6(5) 5-7 [12-10] second round victory.

31st Chengdu FISU World University Games
Sichuan International Tennis Centre
Jul 29-Aug 6, 2023

Mixed Doubles
(5)Jin Yuquan/Tang Qianhui (CHN) d. (2)Coleman Wong/Cody Wong 5-7 6-4 [10-5]

(2)Coleman Wong/Cody Wong d. (8)Josh Charlton/Amy Stevens (AUS) 6-4 6-3

Second Round
(2)Coleman Wong/Cody Wong d. Jan Jermar/Anastasia Polach (CZE) 6-1 6-3

Men’s Singles
Second Round
Liam Krall (USA) d. (1)Coleman Wong 6-3 6-4
(10)Jeff von der Schulenburg (SUI) d. Roger Ng 7-5 6-1

First Round
Roger Ng d. Arian Desvianto (INA) 6-2 6-3

Women’s Singles
(2)Liang En-Shuo (TPE) d. (7)Adithya Karunaratne 6-3 7-5

Third Round
(11)Kim Dabin (KOR) d. (5)Cody Wong 4-6 6-0 2-0 Retired
(7)Adithya Karunaratne d. (12)Lee Eunhye (KOR) 6-3 5-7 6-1

Second Round
(5)Cody Wong d. Patricia Sazambile (ZAM) 6-1 6-0
(7)Adithya Karunaratne d. Clarisse Aussert (FRA) 6-3 6-1

Women’s Doubles
(2)Misaki Matsuda/Ikumi Yamazaki (JPN) d. (5)Cody Wong/Justine Leong 6-2 3-6 [11-9]

Second Round
(5)Cody Wong/Justine Leong d. Nelly Knezkova/Anastasia Polach (CZE) 4-6 6-2 [10-4]

Men’s Doubles
Second Round
(7)Francisco Rocha/Tiago Torres (POR) d. Marvin Lee/Ethan Leung 7-6(5) 5-7 [12-10]

Photo: USFHK