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Hong Kong to face Lebanon in Davis Cup Group II semifinals


Hong Kong to face Lebanon in Davis Cup Group II semifinals

Hong Kong booked its place in the semifinals of this year’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Zone Group II after Kevin Wong and Brian Yeung combined to beat Anoosha Shahgholi and Ashkan Shokoofi, 6-2, 6-0, to win the tie-clinching doubles earlier today.

“We have a relatively young team, so getting the win without any crazy, wild finishes is always the better option.  It’s a good result and we’re through to the next round.  That’s what counts,” said Captain Yu Hiu Tung.

“We managed to jump on them early, stayed strong the whole match, and got the job done,” said Brian Yeung.  “The home supporters were amazing. It was a lot of fun playing in front of them, and a great win on my Davis Cup debut.”

Veterans Anoosha Shahgholi and Ashkan Shokoofi’s lengthy absence from the pro circuit was telling, as they had no answer for Hong Kong’s lively twosome, who are both currently playing full-time.

Earlier on Saturday, Group II debutante Jackie Tang defeated Iranian number one, Shahin Khaledan, 7-6(1), 6-4, in the opening singles before Jack Wong saw off Mohsen Hosseinzadeh in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, to give Hong Kong a commanding 2-0 lead going in today’s all-important doubles.

Elsewhere, in Group II, Lebanon, although going up against a depleted Chinese Taipei side without its top singles player Lu Yen-Hsun (ATP No. 81) or its top doubles player Hsieh Cheng-Peng (ATP No. 107), still caused an upset after unranked Hady Habib and Giovani Samaha beat Chen Ti and Yu Cheng-Yu, 6-1, 7-5, in the tie-clinching doubles earlier this evening in Beirut.

Hong Kong will now play Lebanon away in the April 7-8 semis.  The winner of this tie will go on to face either Thailand or Philippines in the 2018 Asia/Oceania Zone Group II final slated for Sep 15-16.

The two sides last met in the Group III playoffs in 2016 when Kevin Wong and Karan Rastogi beat Hady Habib and Jad Ballout, 6-3, 6-4, for the tie-clinching win to earn promotion to Group II.

However, the Lebanese added a new player to its roster this year, German-based 23-year-old Benjamin Hassan, who is ranked at a career-high ATP No. 504 this week.  Still seeking his maiden pro circuit title, Hassan reached four men’s singles Futures finals in 2017.

Lebanon’s best spell in the Davis Cup came courtesy of Ali Hamadeh and Jicham Zaatini from 1997-2001 when their team was either playing in Group I or winning Group II Finals.

Hamadeh won the NCAA D1 men’s doubles title together with Mahesh Bhupathi while at the University of Mississippi in 1995.  He was ranked as high as No. 5 in singles and No. 1 in doubles collegiately. In 1999, he peaked at ATP No. 153 in doubles.

In 2001, the mercurial Zaatini gave his rendition of Iron Man tennis against Hong Kong in the Group II semifinals in Yarze on red clay when he first lost to Michael Brown, 7-6(7), 6-3, 0-6, 5-7, 6-8, on opening day. Then, he teamed up with Hamadeh to beat John Hui and Chris Numbers, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(6), the following day.  On the third day, he beat Melvin Tong, 6-1, 7-6(6), 6-1, first up in the reverse singles for the tie-clinching win.

Hamadeh and Zaatini contrived a five-set victory against India’s Leander Paes and Fazaluddin Syed in Group I in 2000 when Paes held the world No. 1 ranking in doubles.

Davis Cup by BNP Paribas
Asia/Oceania Zone Group II First Round
Victoria Park Tennis Stadium, Hong Kong
Feb 3-4, 2018

Hong Kong defeated Iran 4-0

R1 Jackie Tang (HKG) d. Shahin Khaledan (IRI) 7-6(1) 6-4
R2 Jack Wong (HKG) d. Mohsen Hosseinzadeh (IRI) 6-2 6-3
R3 Kevin Wong/Brian Yeung (HKG) d. Anoosha Shahgholi/Ashkan Shokoofi (IRI) 6-2 6-0
R4 Skyler Butts (HKG) d. Amir Hossein Badi (IRI) 6-3 6-0
R5 Jackie Tang (HKG) v Mohsen Hosseinzadeh (IRI) DNP