Qualifies for the first time since 2001
· The World Junior Tennis is the preeminent international under-14 team tennis event
The Hong Kong boys’ under-14 tennis team comprising Walter Tam, Richie Choi, Selwyn Wong, and Mark Eade (Captain) did the territory proud by qualifying for the WJT Finals to be held in Prostejov, Czech Republic, from August 7-12. This result puts Hong Kong amongst the top 16 in the world this year.
“Hong Kong juniors have proven once again they can compete with the best of them in Asia, and with more belief and dedication, there is potential to put a name on the world stage,” enthused HKTA President, Philip Mok.
Although Hong Kong was accorded a 3-4 seeding in Kuching and topped Group C to move into the knockout stage, the team needed some late match heroics in order to prevail. Against Chinese Taipei, the score was tied at 1-1 when Walter Tam and Richie Choi lost the opening set in a tiebreak and fell behind 4-2 in the second to Chen Hung-Jui and Mao Kuan-Huai before the duo stormed back to win the deciding doubles 6-7(5) 6-4 [10-1].
Then, in the quarterfinals, Hong Kong and Thailand were deadlocked at 1-1 with a place in the World Finals at stake. Again, Walter Tam and Richie Choi did not disappoint, as they produced a late surge in the third set super-tiebreak to beat Ryu Kotikula and Kanthat Surarityotin 7-6(3) 6-7(0) [10-5] to secure Hong Kong’s passage to Prostejov.
“The boys battled hard as a team on and off the court and showed some real resilience to come back from some tough situations. They have now given themselves an opportunity to go and test against the best players in the world, which is great for their development,” said Captain, Mark Eade.
Selwyn Wong: “I’m very happy and honoured to have qualified for the World Finals. I’m glad to have this opportunity to do something, which hasn’t been done for a while in Hong Kong as part of a team. It was a privilege to have this shared experience with my teammates.”
Richie Choi: “It was a great experience and one of the most memorable moments was the match against Chinese Taipei when we came back to win the deciding doubles after trailing by a set and a break.”
Besides Hong Kong, the other top 4 finishing sides from this past week’s Regionals in Kuching – Japan, Pakistan, and Korea – also qualified.
Only the top nations from the five regions – Asia/Oceania, Africa, Europe, South America, and North Central America & Caribbean – can make it to the 16-team WJT Finals each year. Notable past participants include Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori, Nick Kyrgios, Frances Tiafoe, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Carlos Alcaraz, to name a few.
The international under-14 team event was launched by the International Tennis Federation in 1991 with the Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) as title sponsor. Japan hosted the first 8 Finals before they were relocated to Prostejov, Czech Republic, and it has remained there since 1999. Korea is the only nation from Asia to win the WJT Boys’ event, beating Japan in 2011 and Spain in 2015. Japan was runner-up in 2003, 2006, and 2011, while Korea and China also reached the final in 2012 and 2016 respectively. Overall, USA is the most successful nation with six wins.
This is only the third time in history that the Hong Kong boys’ team has progressed to the Finals. In 1994, the one-two punch of Jason Sankey and Wayne Wong proceeded to beat Philippines, Jordan, Thailand, China, and Chinese Taipei to lock up a second place finish to send TeamHK to the World Finals for the first time. They were only beaten by Lleyton Hewitt’s Australia in the final that year. In 2001, due to heavy rain in Sri Lanka, the customary round robin group stage gave way to a straight-up 16-team single elimination format. Martin Sayer went undefeated in singles to lead Hong Kong to victories over 4th seed Australia, 5th seed New Zealand, and China in the 3rd Place Playoff to secure passage to the World Finals for a second time.
“I did feel some added pressure playing No. 1 singles, but I managed to keep everything under control. The most important thing is that we’re through to the World Finals,” said Walter Tam, who was unbeaten in singles through five matches until the 3rd Place Playoff against the top-seeded Koreans.
“I’m really looking forward to competing with the other top players around the world, the challenge of figuring out how to play guys with different game styles, who all can hit with a variety of spins and speeds. I’m hoping to gain experience not just by playing, but seeing how the competitors perform on a daily basis. I will be heading to Spain in the coming weeks to play clay court tournaments to ready myself for the Finals in August.”
Tam was Hong Kong’s National under-10 boys’ singles champion from 2017-2019, the under-12 champion from 2020-2021, and the under-14 finalist from 2021-2022. Last year, he also captured both under-14 and under-18 boys’ singles titles at the CRC Open and was the National under-16 champion.
Richie Choi, who played No. 2 singles, is the current National under-12 and under-14 boys’ champion.
About the ITF World Junior Tennis competition
Inaugurated by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) in 1991, this 14 & Under annual event offers young players the opportunity to experience world-class competition and the unique atmosphere of playing in a team environment for their country.
Format of Play: Sixteen teams are drawn into four groups, with the top two from each group advancing to the knockout stage, and the remaining eight teams competing in a positional playoff to determine final placings. Each match consists of two singles and a doubles.
WJT Boys Asia/Oceania Qualifying
March 27-April 1, 2023
Group C – Round Robins
(3-4) Hong Kong d. New Zealand 2-1
MS2 Richie Choi (HKG) d. Liam Youn (NZL) 6-1 6-3
MS1 Walter Tam (HKG) d. Zachariah Wu (NZL) 6-2 6-0
MD Liam Youn/Riley Breen (NZL) d. Richie Choi/Selwyn Wong (HKG) 6-3 7-6(6)
(3-4) Hong Kong d. Chinese Taipei 2-1
MS2 Mao Kuan-Huai (TPE) d. Richie Choi (HKG) 6-4 6-2
MS1 Walter Tam (HKG) d. Chen Hung-Jui (TPE) 6-0 7-5
MD Walter Tam/Richie Choi (HKG) d. Chen Hung-Jui/Mao Kuan-Huai (TPE) 6-7(5) 6-4 [10-1]
(3-4) Hong Kong d. (5-8)India 3-0
MS2 Richie Choi (HKG) d. Prakaash Sarran (IND) 6-2 6-0
MS1 Walter Tam (HKG) d. Shivtej Shirfule (IND) 6-0 6-7(2) 6-3
MD Richie Choi/Selwyn Wong (HKG) d. Shivtej Shirfule/Prakaash Sarran (IND) 3-6 6-4 [14-12]
(3-4) Hong Kong d. Thailand 2-1
MS2 Ryu Kotikula (THA) d. Richie Choi (HKG) 3-6 6-3 6-2
MS1 Walter Tam (HKG) d. Dharma Pantaratorn (THA) 6-4 6-0
M D Walter Tam/Richie Choi (HKG) d. Ryu Kotikula/Kanthat Surarityotin (THA) 7-6(3) 6-7(0) [10-5]
(5-8) Pakistan d. (3-4)Hong Kong 2-1
MS2 Abubakar Talha (PAK) d. Selwyn Wong (HKG) 6-3 6-2
MS1 Walter Tam (HKG) d. Hamza Roman (PAK) 6-1 6-1 M D Hamza Roman/Abubakar Talha (PAK) d. Richie Choi/Walter Tam (HKG) 7-6(5) 6-4
3rd-4th Place Playoff
(1)Korea d. (3-4)Hong Kong 2-0
MS2 Kim Dong Min (KOR) d. Richie Choi (HKG) 6-3 7-5
MS1 Cho Min Hyuk (KOR) d. Walter Tam (HKG) 7-6(2) 6-2
M D Kim Dong Min/Kim Won Min (KOR) v Walter Tam/Richie Choi (HKG) Not Played
FINAL POSITIONS (Brackets denote seedings):
4. Hong Kong(3-4)
——————————– Top 4 qualify for Finals
5. Chinese Taipei
12. New Zealand