The HKCTA is deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Martin Sayer, who had just turned 36. At the time, he was the assistant men’s tennis coach at Virginia Tech, a position he has held since 2016. Martin is survived by his father Paul, his mother Jenny, his sister Natalie, his brothers Nicholas and Matt, his wife Ashley, and his son, Roger.
Born and bred in Hong Kong, he was always the best player in his age group growing up and he was nicknamed ‘The Iceman’. He let his racquet do the talking. At the Hong Kong National Junior Tennis Championships, he captured the under-12 title in 1998 and 1999, the under-14 title in 2000 and 2001, the under-16 in 2002, followed by the under-16 and under-18 in 2003.
He attended King George V School and was a gifted runner before committing to a full-time tennis scholarship at the Hong Kong Sports Institute. His record for Boys’ 1500m Grade C (Form 1-2) in the year 1999-2000 is still listed in the HKSSF Inter-School Athletics Records (1951-2023). In 2001, he even won the Grade C Individual title at the Inter-School Cross Country Championships held at the Fanling Golf Course. Later that year, he spearheaded the Hong Kong under-14 World Junior Tennis (WJT) team to a 3rd place finish at the Asia/Oceania Qualifying to earn the squad a ticket to the World Finals in the Czech Republic. There was a 22-year wait before the next boys’ team managed to qualify.
In 2005, after reaching back-to-back ITF Grade 1 finals in Thailand and Philippines, he reached a career-high junior world ranking of No. 25. That year, he was a Direct Acceptance to all four Junior Grand Slams and famously knocked out world No. 2 Leonardo Mayer in the first round at the French Open. He made his Davis Cup debut at the Group III Asia/Oceania Qualifying held at Victoria Park, where he picked up three wins in singles and five wins in doubles to help the team win promotion to Group II in 2006. He also won both men’s singles and doubles at Hong Kong National Tennis Championships.
He arrived at Radford University in the Fall and quickly found himself at UNC, Chapel Hill for the ITA Mideast Regional Championships. He ended up beating four nationally ranked players, including then NCAA No. 2 Ludovic Walter (Duke), to become co-champion of the ITA Mideast Regionals. His college ranking shot up from a preseason No. 113 to a career-best No. 17 overnight.
Over the course of his career, Sayer became one of Radford’s and the Big South Conference’s most prominent tennis players and individual athletes in school and conference history. Sayer achieved several accolades never accomplished before by any tennis player at RU. A four-time Big South Player of the Year and the Mideast Region Rookie of the Year, he was the Radford’s all-time leader in victories (114) in his four seasons at the No. 1 singles position. He also made the singles draw of the NCAA Championships four years in a row. In the fall of 2008, Sayer was then the only current student-athlete at the time named to the Big South Conference “Best of the Best” as part of the league’s 25th anniversary celebration. Moreover, he was the first nationally ranked player in Radford’s program history.
He also played Davis Cup for Hong Kong in 2006, 2008, and 2009-2011. Some of his most memorable performances included a 6-0 6-4 7-6 victory over Indonesian No. 1 Elbert Sie in Jakarta in 2008 and the away tie against Sri Lanka in 2010 where he took all three points to seal the 3-2 Relegation Playoff win in Colombo. Another one is the five-setter against Filipino No. 1 Cecil Mamiit at Victoria Park in 2009 where he held a match point in the fifth set at 6-5, 30-40 on his opponent’s serve before the former NCAA singles champion and ATP No. 72 fought back to win 6-4 4-6 3-6 7-6(4) 9-7. Martin also represented Hong Kong at the All China Games in 2009 and Asian Games in 2010. He was last in town for the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan in 2011.
Martin has represented Hong Kong with pride and humility. He is gone, but he will never be forgotten.