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Hong Kong qualifies for 2024 DCJ Finals


Hong Kong qualifies for 2024 DCJ Finals

The fourth-seeded Hong Kong under-16 boys’ team comprising Jack Cheng, Nicholas Cheng, Walter Tam, and Jose Blasi (Captain) placed third at the Davis Cup Juniors Asia/Oceania Qualifying held in Shymkent.  The top 4 placed teams – Japan, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong and Chinese Taipei – have all earned a spot in this year’s World Finals.  It is the seventh time in history, and the first since 2019,  that TeamHK has made it to the promised land.

Hong Kong first qualified in 2001 courtesy of Jack Hui and Brian Hung, when the team was the top seed at that year’s Asia/Oceania Qualifying.  They came second behind the Aussies in the qualies before finishing 10th overall at the World Finals. Since then, the 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, and now the 2024 team have also qualified.

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

HKCTA President, Michael Cheng: “We are a building a Team Hong Kong concept. Hope to instill a winning mentality and a team spirit and a belief that Hong Kong has the ability to compete with the best of them. Winning is contagious. It creates a winning mentality both individually and culturally among the stakeholders.  This gives credence and precedence to a path on which others can emulate and follow.  Davis Cup Juniors Finals qualification and making 3rd place is a first step in the right direction.”

Earlier in the round robin stage, No. 1 seed Kazakhstan topped Group A with three wins, as did No. 4 seed Hong Kong in Group B.  However, in Group C, No. 3 seed Chinese Taipei lost 2-1 to New Zealand when its number one and world No. 120 Chen Kuan-Shuo was forced to retire midway through the encounter.  Australia beat New Zealand 2-1 on opening day but lost to Chinese Taipei by the same score on Day 3.  Luckily for Chinese Taipei and Australia, they came out of the three-way tie to progress to the quarterfinals.  Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Japan also topped Group D with a 3-0 record.

Hong Kong started out by beating Indonesia, then Jordan, and No. 7 seed India to top Group B.  After beating No. 8 seed Korea in the ensuing quarterfinals behind the singles play of Nicholas Cheng and Jack Cheng, the team was assured of a top 4 finish, and in so doing, a ticket to the World Finals.  Nicholas Cheng beat world No. 629 Hwang Juchan at the two spot 6-3 6-2 before Jack Cheng fought back to win against No. 369 Cho Se-Hyuk 3-6 6-2 6-3.

Next up in the semis, the boys faced a top-seeded Kazakhstan outfit with world No. 191 Zangar Nurlanuly, No. 271 Damir Zhalgasbay, and No. 778 Daniel Tazabekov on its roster. In 2022, this same trio had defeated Italy, Argentina, and Slovenia to reach the semis of the World Junior Tennis Finals.

Related Story: Kazakhstan Junior Tennis Team Reaches Semi-Finals in Debut Appearance at the World Championship (PR Newswire, 23 Aug 2022)

Although No. 468 Nicholas Cheng overcame the higher-ranked Zhalgasbay 7-5 7-6(4) to give the team a 1-0 lead, Nurlanuly led his side to a come from behind victory by beating Jack Cheng 7-6(3) 6-2 at the one spot and then partnering Tazabekov to a 6-1 6-1 win over Nicholas Cheng and Walter Tam in the deciding doubles.

Up against No. 3 seed Chinese Taipei in the 3rd-4th Place Playoff, Nicholas Cheng was pitted against world No. 431 Lin Hao-Yu, the same player who beat him in the final of last year’s J30 Singapore.  This time round, however, it was Nicholas Cheng who triumphed with an identical scoreline of 6-4 6-1.  Jack Cheng then engineered another come back win, this time a 4-6 6-2 6-4 decision against world No. 120 Chen Kuan-Shou, the highest-ranked player in Shymkent this past week.  Jack Cheng, at No. 157, was the third highest-ranked behind Japan’s No. 136 Ryo Tabata.  

Captain Jose Blasi: “Very happy, very proud of our players, the way they competed, the attitude they had on court, and as a result we finished in 3rd position behind Japan and Kazakhstan.  It was a good week for us, beating teams like India and Korea, and Chinese Taipei to qualify. Thank you to HKCTA and to the players for this big effort, and also our fitness coach Denis and Physio Chung.  Let’s keep competing well at the World Finals later this year.”

Jack Cheng: “Thank you to HKCTA for giving me the opportunity to represent Hong Kong. It was an unforgettable week.  Thanks to the coaches, teammates, and the parents for all their support.  I hope we can do really well in the World Finals.”

Nicholas Cheng: “Thank you HKCTA for the opportunity in allowing me to represent Hong Kong.  Thank you to the parents who came to support us and also Coach Jose and Physio Chung.  We all hope to perform well at the World Finals.”

Walter Tam: “I want to thank HKCTA for giving me this opportunity to play Davis Cup Juniors. We played Indonesia, Jordan, India, Korea, Kazakhstan, and Chinese Taipei.  It was really fun to compete against other top juniors in Asia.  I’m excited that we can go to the World Finals.  I thank my coaches, parents, and teammates for their support and I hope we can play our best tennis in the Finals.”

About the Junior Davis Cup

The ITF’s International Team Competition for players aged 16 & Under was launched in 1985 as the World Youth Cup.  This event was re-branded in the mid-2000s as the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.  Now, it is called Davis Cup Juniors and Billie Jean King Cup Juniors by Gainbridge.

This age bracket was chosen as a critical period in a player’s development and gave an opportunity for young players to enjoy a taste of the special demands of team membership in a competitive environment.  Except for the host nation, every team must compete in tough regional qualifying competitions each year to make it through to the Finals.

Notable past participants of this competition included Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, and Alexander Zverev, to name a few.

Roster Rankings

Seed 1 Kazakhstan
Zangar Nurlanuly 191
Damir Zhalgasbay 271
Daniel Tazabekov 778

Seed 2 Japan
Ryo Tabata 136
Hyu Kawanishi 322
Ren Matsumura 338

Seed 3 Chinese Taipei
Chen Kuan-Shou 120
Lin Hao-Yu 431
Wang Yen-Chun 588

Seed 4 Hong Kong
Jack Cheng 157
Nicholas Cheng 468
Walter Tam 884

Seed 5 Australia
Cruz Hewitt 231
Cameron Burton 436
Jeffrey Strydom 768

Final Positions (Brackets denote seedings):

1. Japan(2)
2. Kazakhstan(1)
3. Hong Kong(4)
4. Chinese Taipei(3)

—————————- Top 4 qualified for Finals

5. Australia(5)
6. India(7)
7. Korea(8)
8. China(6)
9. New Zealand
10. Uzbekistan
11. Malaysia
12. Jordan
13. Thailand
14. Iran
15. Indonesia
16. Vietnam