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Wong a runner-up at Delhi Challenger


Wong a runner-up at Delhi Challenger

Nineteen-year-old Coleman Wong was seeking to win his first ATP Challenger Tour title on his third attempt but was thwarted by the solid play of world No. 277 Geoffrey Blancaneaux, as the Frenchman converted 3 of 6 break point chances to win in straight sets 6-4 6-2.  Although the HK rep played well in patches, that was not enough to string together a run of points to trouble his opponent’s serve today.  The only look he had was a pair of break points in Blancaneaux’s opening service game, but the Frenchman’s defense stood firm from start to finish.

Like Wong, Blancaneaux broke into the top 300 at age 19 before reaching a career-high No. 134 in 2022. A former junior world No. 5, he came from a set down to beat both Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime to win the 2016 Roland Garros boys’ singles title.

Wong’s opponent in the first round, local wildcard and world No. 422, Mukund Sasikumar, came out of the blocks bombing first serves to hold authoritatively to begin proceedings.  After the HK rep evened at one apiece, the two exchanged a service break, resulting in a 2-2 stalemate. Wong’s consistent depth began to cause problems for the Indian and although Sasikumar did well to save a break point to hold for 3-2, a running crosscourt backhand pass in the seventh game brought up triple break point for Wong and he broke after his opponent netted a backhand, 4-3.  Bagging 92% of first serve points won, Wong saved 2 of 3 break points and belted an ace down the tee to take the opening set 6-4.

In the second set, Wong rode the momentum and broke serve immediately by pinning his opponent back with deep strikes off both wings.  However, the HK rep was unable to convert a game point at 40-30 and Sasikumar managed to break back following a long rally, 1-1.  The local wildcard’s much improved defense was causing Wong to give up a few more errors than the first and his resilience paid off, as Sasikumar saved 4 of 5 break points and converted another break chance in a hotly contested tenth game to wrestle back the second set 6-4.

In the third, three costly double faults from Sasikumar saw the HK rep draw first blood, as he broke for a 3-2 lead before a flurry of thumping aces enabled him to consolidate for a 4-2 advantage. To his credit, Sasikumar made a last ditch effort to right his ship and saved three match points to hold for 5-4 before capitalising on several untimely errors by Wong to break back to force a 5-5 impasse.  The Indian dug deep to save another pair of break points in the ensuing game before Wong nailed a forehand winner to break for a 6-5 lead. Sasikumar was far from done, however, as he held a break point with Wong teetering at 30-40 only to see the HK rep rip a backhand down the line to get back to deuce. The local wildcard saved another match point with some desperate defense before Wong flattened out a huge first serve winner on his fifth close-out point to win 6-4 4-6 7-5.

In the second round, Wong had a tough task against an in-form 3rd-seeded world No. 147 Valentin Vacherot, who has won all three Challengers he entered thus far in 2024.  However, the former Texas A&M All-American and SEC Player of the Year pulled up lame after a tough three-set win in the first round and was forced to concede a walkover.

In the quarterfinals, Wong was met with world No. 153 Christian Schoolkate, a player he beat 6-7(7) 7-6(3) 7-6(2) en route to the Playford Challenger final last October.  Superb serving this time round was key again in a match where break point opportunities were few and far between and the 19-year-old from Hong Kong prevailed over the Australian in straight sets 7-6(10) 6-3 to set up a rematch with Yuta Shimizu of Japan.  

Shimizu had won their previous encounter in the quarters of the Yokohama Challenger 7-6(7) 6-7(1) 7-6(4) last November.  This time round, even though Wong converted just 1 of 9 break point chances, he managed to win 70% of his second serve points and, most importantly, saved all ten break points he faced to beat the southpaw 7-6(5) 6-4.

Wong had a very good second half of the season last year, the best six months any player from Hong Kong has ever had in men’s tennis.  In June 2023, he captured the Tunisia F29 to become the first player from Hong Kong to win a men’s Futures singles title.  He had a busy September, partnering Cody Wong to earn a bronze medal in mixed doubles at the World University Games, then returning home to win his maiden M25 title in Hong Kong.  He then led the Davis Cup team against Latvia in World Group II albeit in a close 3-2 defeat.   

At the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, he trailed No. 3 seed Wu Yibing 6-1 in the third set tiebreak of the men’s singles third round but won seven points in a row to win 6-4 3-6 7-6(6) (first win over an ATP top 100 opponent by a HK player) to become the first player from Hong Kong to reach men’s singles quarterfinals at the Asian Games since tennis became a medal sport at the 3rd Asiad in Tokyo in 1958.  In October, he became the first player from Hong Kong to reach the men’s singles final of an ATP Challenger, first at Luohu, then at Playford, the following week.  At Playford, he defeated ATP No. 68 Thanasi Kokkinakis and No. 100 Taro Daniel en route to the final.  He finished 2023 with a Year-End ATP Ranking of No. 252, the highest-ever by a player from Hong Kong.

Onwards we go to the next tourney.