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In the men’s singles final, 19-year-old Ethan Leung, who sent two-time defending champion Jack Wong crashing out in the quarters, took the opening set before 3rd-seed Kevin Wong rallied to win 4-6 6-3 6-3.  Meanwhile, in the ladies’ singles, No. 2 seed Cody Wong dethroned last year’s winner, Maggie Ng, in straight sets 7-6(4) 6-2 to capture her fourth career title, which puts her third all-time behind only Tong Ka Po (6) and Paulette Moreno (5).

With the victory, Wong added to his 2017-2018 tally to elevate himself to become one of only ten players – Ip Koon Hung (11), Tau Luu (8), To Kwun Kau (5), Randall King (4), Michael Walker (4), Wayne Wong (4), Jack Wong (4), Yu Hiu Tung (3), and Phillip King (3) – to have won three or more men’s singles titles here at the CRC Open.  

Wong: “All three times, I had to come back from a set down to win.  I was struggling big time in the opening set today, too, but then I had a moment at 3-2 in the second when it dawned on me that I can’t possibly walk away with a loss today.  Losing is not an option.  I just refused to lose.”

Leung: “I won the first set because he made quite a lot of unforced errors.  But then he got his rhythm back and started targeting my forehand instead of hitting to my backhand.  My timing was off with my forehands and he took advantage of that.”

The opening set of the men’s final saw the players exchange a pair of early breaks to arrive at a 4-4 stalemate.  With Leung serving at 15-15, the two were engaged in a protracted baseline battle.  After 23 strokes, the point was at Wong’s mercy, for Leung was stranded at the net with nowhere to go.  With all the time in the world and all the real estate to aim for, Wong was in disbelief, as he smacked a forehand that landed way past the baseline.  Leung eventually went on to hold for a slender 5-4 lead.  Wong, on the other hand, had game point leading 40-30 on his ensuing serve but after he squandered it with his umpteenth error, he would cough up a double fault before mishandling a deep backhand from his opponent to concede his serve for the third time to lose the set 6-4.

Wong broke serve to go up 2-1 in the ensuing set, but after getting treatment on his right shoulder during a medical timeout, he proceeded to lose his serve, as Leung nailed a backhand down the line return winner to draw even at 2-2.  Now back on serve, Leung won another long rally to hold for a 3-2 lead.  However, Wong somehow came out from the changeover with rejuvenated keenness and broke Leung twice in succession to strong-arm the next four games in a row to snatch the set 6-3.

In the deciding set, servers dominated proceedings and there were no break opportunities until the eighth game when Leung, trailing 4-3, suddenly found himself down 0-40 on his own serve.  Although he saved the first with a good first delivery down the tee, Leung hit a wide open mid-court forehand into the tramlines to lose serve to trail 5-3.  Three groundstroke errors from Leung later saw the No. 3 seed arrive at triple match point.  A first serve down the tee followed by a backhand down the line winner was all she wrote, as Wong returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since claiming back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.

The men’s singles trophy is named 仕光杯 in perpetuity after 吳仕光 Ng Sze Kwong, the first local Chinese to break the expat stranglehold at the Hong Kong National Grasscourt Championships when he captured it six times in a row from 1918-1923.  He was a member of China’s 1924 Paris Olympic Games Lawn Tennis team and Captain of China’s Davis Cup team in 1928.  He was invited to join the Select Committee of five to decide on the players for China’s 1935 Davis Cup tie against USA.  Ng was also Chairman of CRC for ten consecutive years until he decided to step down in 1932.

In the opening set of the ladies’ singles final that saw No. 2 seed Cody Wong and defending champ Maggie Ng exchange three breaks of serve each with neither player able to grab a stranglehold, proceedings, inadvertently, went to a tiebreak.  The two took turns to win point for point until Ng served with a 3-2 lead in hand.  Wong blew open the breaker by snagging the next four points on the trot with some deep hitting to jump out to a huge 6-3 lead.  Although Ng managed to save a set point to peg the score back to 6-4, that was not nearly enough to stop Wong from registering another mini-break to take the set in a tiebreak 7-4.

After the defending champ held for 2-1 in the ensuing set, Wong overcame a wayward forehand drive volley by blasting an ace down the tee for a 3-1 lead.  With her opponent leading 4-2, Ng coughed up a double fault to concede her serve for the second time in this set to trail 5-2.  Wong wasted no time and conjured a pair of second serve aces before ripping a huge forehand half-volley drive down the line for a winner.  Game, set, and match, Wong 7-6(4) 6-2.

The 21-year-old is now a four-time winner in the ladies’ singles after she had triumphed three years in a row earlier in her career from 2017-2019.  She was gunning for four-straight in 2020, but lost out to Eudice Chong in the final.  

Wong: “Happy to be back and winning the tournament again!”

The withdrawal of the top 2 men’s seeds, Li Zhe (ATP 532) and Mo Yecong (ATP 646), has opened up the draw some for the rest of the field.  The next highest-ranked entry, Wang Chukang at No. 899, who has beaten the likes of Te Rigele, was a no-show.  In ladies’ singles, the withdrawal of top seed Eudice Chong saw 3rd seed Wang Meiling (WTA 601) being moved to the top of the draw, but the highest-ranked player remaining is still former three-time champion and No. 2 seed Cody Wong (WTA 382).  

Earlier, in the quarterfinals, Ethan Leung ended two-time defending champion Jack Wong’s 32-match winning streak with a 6-3 6-2 victory.  Since Kevin Wong’s triumph at the HK Nationals in 2021, Jack Wong has won every local major contested since, culminating with six straight titles.  After sweeping all three majors in 2022, Jack Wong had the chance to become the first player to capture back-to-back Triple Crowns after having won the HK Nationals and SCAA Open earlier this year.  It certainly looked that way based on their recent head-to-head, with Jack Wong defeating Ethan Leung in the final of the SCAA Open last year 7-5 6-2 and again at this year’s Prudential Hong Kong National Tennis Championships semifinal 6-3 6-0.  

However, Jack Wong could not find his rhythm on the night and Leung took advantage of anything that was landing short.  Leung: “He wasn’t at his best today and I was able to adapt to the windy conditions a bit better in some of the crucial games.  I think also mentally, I was more prepared. I was dialed in and I was ready to fight to the end.”

In the ladies’ doubles final, top-seeded Maggie Ng/Sviatlana Pirazhenka, who were just a couple of points away from defeat to Christy Che/Athena Yeung in the first round where they scraped through 6-3 6-7(7) [13-11], broke Wang’s serve to go up 3-1 before Ng saved three break points to consolidate for a 4-1 lead.  Then, Wong/Wang broke Pirazhenka to get back on serve trailing 4-3 when Wang yielded her serve again in a titanic game that saw her save six break points.  Ng held for 6-3 to grab a one-set lead.

In the second, the No. 1-seeded pair could not make any inroads into Wang’s service games, and from 1-1, it was the second-seeded tandem that proceeded with a five-game run to win it 6-1 to force a third set super-tiebreak.

In the third set super-tiebreak, it was Wong who let slip four mini-breaks on her serve to trail in the early going. Even though the No. 2 seed overcame a 4-0 deficit to draw even at 8-8, a careless return serve error from Wong brought up match point.  She then threw down a three-quarter pace first serve to facilitate Wang’s forecourt intercept.  However, the return serve from Ng was a low one that barely cleared the net, and Wang could only send the volley into the top of the net.  Game, set, and match, as Ng/Sviatlana Pirazhenka beat No. 2 seed Cody Wong/Wang Chao-Yi (TPE) 6-3 1-6 [10-8] to win their second successive ladies’ doubles title.

Most men’s singles titles:

Ip Koon Hung
Tau Luu
To Kwun Kau
Randall King
Michael Walker
Wayne Wong
Jack Wong
Yu Hiu Tung
Phillip King
Kevin Wong
1948 1951 1952 1954 1957 1958 1959 1960 1962 1963 1964
1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977
1949 1950 1953 1956 1961
1980 1981 1982 1985
1988 1989 1990 1991
2005 2006 2008 2009
2015 2016 2021 2022
2001 2002 2006
2011 2012 2013
2017 2018 2023

Most ladies’ singles titles:

Tong Ka Po
Paulette Moreno
Cody Wong
Polly Lam
Venise Chan
Maggie Ng
1996 1997 1999 2001 2004 2007
1981 1982 1984 1985 1992
2017 2018 2019 2023
2000 2002 2003
2005 2011 2016
2013 2014 2022

CRC Open
Chinese Recreation Club
Oct 14-Nov 23, 2023

Men’s Singles
(3)Kevin Wong d. (7)Ethan Leung 4-6 6-3 6-3

Ladies’ Singles
(2)Cody Wong d. Maggie Ng 7-6(4) 6-2

Men’s Doubles
(1)Jack Wong/Kevin Wong d. Aziz Khan/Ray Lam 6-4 6-2

Ladies’ Doubles
(1)Maggie Ng/Sviatlana Pirazhenka d. (2)Cody Wong/Wang Chao-Yi 6-3 1-6 [10-8]