Hong Kong, China played host to Latvia in a World Group II 1st Round tie on Saturday and Sunday at Victoria Park. In front of a near packed house, Coleman Wong and Jack Wong put up considerable resistance before the higher-ranked visitors came through with an evenly-fought 3-2 victory. The win puts Latvia in the 2024 Davis Cup World Group I Play-offs, while Hong Kong, China joins Monaco, Indonesia, Morocco, Uruguay, Jamaica, Thailand, Barbados, Slovenia, Tunisia, El Salvador or Ireland, and China or Mexico in the 2024 World Group II Play-offs next February.
“I’m proud of the way our guys performed. They gave everything they had, so I have no complaints,” explains Captain Yu Hiu Tung. “One or two points here and there at certain moments was literally the difference. I thought they handled adversity well, fought back hard with intent and purpose, and gave a very good account of themselves against, what was, higher-ranked opposition. The crowd and the atmosphere were unbelievable today, the biggest turnout for a home tie I’ve been a part of over the years.”
Jack Wong, who is playing his eighth year of Davis Cup: “We lost three very close rubbers. I was playing an opponent ranked ATP No. 385, more than 1,000 spots higher than me. Managed to extend him to a third set, and lost by one break only. Then doubles, we played him and Mikelis, who is ranked No. 143. We had our opportunities, though, and came up a bit short, but I’m happy with my performance, and hoping to bring it to the Asian Games, too.”
Opposing No. 1 Robert Strombachs broke Jack Wong in the fifth and ninth games to take the opening set 6-3. After saving a break point to hold for 2-2 in the ensuing set, games went with serve until the ninth game when Strombachs double-faulted at 30-40 to gift Wong the break. He duly served it out 6-4 to even at a set apiece. However, Strombachs broke Wong early in the third set to go up 2-0 and then saved back-to-back break points the following game to race out to 3-0. At this point in time, a medical timeout was called for Strombachs. In the ninth game serving at 30-40, Wong did well to save a match point before holding for 5-3 to force his opponent to serve it out. The Latvian No. 1 then produced a love hold to end the contest 6-3 4-6 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Despite the ranking discrepancy at the moment, with Wong’s No. 1478 versus Strombachs’ No. 385, the Latvian did not have it all his way, even though he dictated much of the play. Wong stuck to his guns and focused on trying to frustrate his opponent and make him expend as much energy as possible. Playing deep and covering a lot of real estate, Wong defended superbly in the second set, retrieving all out in side to side action. Strombachs reached three M15 finals so far this season, winning the M15 Sharm El Sheikh in March. His five career ITF World Tennis Tour men’s singles titles have come at the 15K level. That said, Strombachs has been playing primarily Challengers since the beginning of this year and was just in Zhuhai, Zhangjiagang, and Shanghai for Challengers leading up to the Davis Cup tie in Hong Kong.
In the second singles pitting Coleman Wong against opposing No. 2 Martins Rocens, the HK No. 1 threatened in the fifth game but could not convert four break points that saw Rocens eventually hold serve after nine long deuces. Finally, Wong broke in the seventh game when his opponent double-faulted to yield serve. Wong threw down consecutive aces to consolidate the break to lead 5-3. In the tenth game, Wong clocked three aces to hold for the set, 6-4. Wong then broke in the very first game of the ensuing set and led 3-1 when play was suspended due to rain. Wong added an insurance break in the seventh game to go up 5-2 before throwing down a thumping ace on match point to seal a 6-4 6-2 victory.
Wong had just captured his second career men’s Futures singles title at the M25 Hong Kong last week following his maiden win in Tunisia earlier in June. He has an ATP ranking No. 534, while Rocens is currently unranked but has previously reached a career-best No. 1482 in August 2022.
On Sunday, Mikelis Libietis/Robert Strombachs, holding ATP doubles rankings of No. 145 and No. 406 respectively, broke Coleman Wong/Jack Wong in the fourth game for the only service break they needed to win the opening set, although the Latvian duo did have to save a break point in the seventh game before holding for 5-2. A game later, they delivered a love hold to take the set 6-3.
In the second, after the Latvians double-faulted at 30-30 to hand gift a break point opportunity, Wong/Wong gladly obliged and broke for 4-2 . The fellas then fell behind 0-40 the following game, fought back to deuce, saved another break point, before consolidating for a topsy-turvy 5-2 lead. The error-strewn Latvians coughed up another service break, as the duo from Hong Kong graciously accepted it to snag the second set 6-2.
Games then went with serve until 3-3 in third when Wong/Wong was forced to save a break point before edging ahead 4-3. The following game Libietis/Strombachs managed to stave off three break points from 15-40 down to hold serve to force a 4-4 impasse. The next game, it was Wong/Wong’s turn to come from 15-40 down to hold serve to forge ahead 5-4. After Libietis/Strombachs held for 5-5, the HK duo needed a tight game to force the Latvians to serve and stay in the match, but they dug themselves a 0-30 hole with a double fault and a volley error. Libietis/Strombachs seized the opening and broke Wong/Wong to go up 6-5 and just when the HK pair pegged the Latvians back to 30-30, they delivered timely good first serves to prevail 6-3 2-6 7-5 in two hours and fifteen minutes.
Libietis was the doubles standout in this tie, with an ATP ranking of No. 145, just four spots shy of his career-high. He had already won two Challenger titles this year in Chicago and Granby. During the 2012–13 season, he was the No. 1-ranked player in singles and doubles in NCAA Division I while he was playing for the University of Tennessee.
In a match-up between the two number ones, Robert Strombachs somehow withstood a barrage of twenty aces from Coleman Wong and fended off all nine break points he faced to beat the Hong Kong teenager 6-4 7-6(6) to give Latvia an unassailable 3-1 lead. Wong did not enjoy the brightest of starts and lost serve straightaway. While his service games were dominant for the rest of the set, so was his opponent’s, as Wong was unable to find an opening to get a crack at the Strombachs’ serve, losing the set 6-4.
After Wong registered a love hold to begin the second, Strombachs uncharacteristically committed two double faults to fall behind 0-40. However, he managed to grab the next five points in a row to hold for 1-1. Wong then served a pair of aces to lead 2-1 but found himself unable to convert two more break points, as Strombachs held for 2-2. Wong threw down another couple of aces to hold for 3-2. After Strombachs held easily for 3-3, Wong saved two break points with an ace on each occasion to edge ahead 4-3. In the following game, Strombachs was living dangerously and had to save four break points just to even the score at 4-4.
Wong’s string of aces continued, as he sent down three more in the next game to hold for 5-4. Strombachs then held easily for 5-5. Wong thunders down another pair of aces to hold for 6-5, but Strombachs held to love to take proceedings into a tiebreak. With Strombachs leading 6-3, Wong conjured back-to-back mini breaks to save the first two match points. Still down 6-5, the teenager hurtles down another ace, his 20th of the rubber, to draw even at 6-6. However, Wong double faulted the next point and with his fourth match point, the Latvian No. 1 came good this time and capitalised to cement a 6-4 7-6(6) victory that gave his side an insurmountable 3-1 lead. Roger Ng than won his first dead rubber by beating Daniels Tens 7-5 6-2 to complete the final 3-2 scoreline.
Davis Cup World Group II 1st Round
Victoria Park Tennis Stadium
16-17 September 2023
Latvia defeated Hong Kong, China 3-2
R1 Robert Strombachs (LAT) d. Jack Wong 6-3 4-6 6-3
R2 Coleman Wong d. Martins Rocens (LAT) 6-4 6-2
R3 Robert Strombachs/Mikelis Libietis (LAT) d. Coleman Wong/Jack Wong 6-3 2-6 7-5
R4 Robert Strombachs (LAT) d. Coleman Wong 6-4 7-6(6)
R5 Roger Ng d. Daniels Tens (LAT) 7-5 6-2