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At the ATP Shenzhen Luohu Challenger, Coleman Wong was outplayed by the more experienced No. 1 seed James Duckworth of Australia, who was dominant on serve from wire to wire in the final and converted 5 of 11 break points to runaway with a 6-0 6-1 victory.  Though in defeat, Wong became the first player from Hong Kong to reach the final of an ATP Challenger and at the end of a week-long battle that included back-to-back come-from-behind three-set victories, the 19-year-old has earned himself 50 valuable computer ranking points and US$6,355 for his valiant effort.

Duckworth, who turned pro in 2010, has now amassed thirteen Challenger and seven Futures titles.  He attained a career-high ATP ranking of No. 46 in singles in January 2022 after a banner 2021, during which he reached his maiden ATP Tour final at Astana and recorded the biggest win of his career against world No. 13 David Goffin at Miami.  That year, he also advanced to the third round at a Grand Slam for the first time at Wimbledon and reached his first Masters 1000 quarterfinal at Paris.  Coming into Luohu, the Duckman’s form was not red-hot, but he did reach three Challenger finals earlier this season at Morelos, Bengaluru, and Burnie.

In the final against Wong, Duckworth converted 5 of 11 break points and limited the HK rep’s second serve points won to just 31% compared to his 64%.  Wong also had an off-day with his first deliveries, landing an uncharacteristically low 37% compared to Duckworth’s efficient 61%. The Aussie’s anticipation was off the charts today, guessing right almost every time in 50-50 situations to frustrate the teenager.  Although Wong managed to fight off six break points, that was not nearly enough to stop a very determined Duckworth from bagging his thirteenth career Challenger title, and the first since Istanbul in September 2021.

Wong rued, “Opponent was really good today and I was not at my best as well.”

Earlier, against qualifier Huang Tsung-Hao of Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinal, Wong endured a rough opening set in which his opponent capitalised on his lone break point in the tenth game to break for the set, 6-4.  All the while, Huang manged to save all eleven break points he faced with seemingly effortless, error-free tennis, patiently waiting for the short ball to attack.

On serve at 2-1, Wong faced his first break point in the second set and pulled an inside-in forehand wide and long to lose serve bright and early.  Huang, for once, oddly enough, did not face a single break point in the next game and consolidated with ease for a lightning-quick 4-1 lead.   After Wong fought back to level proceedings to get back on serve trailing 5-4, a couple of loose errors saw him fall behind 15-40 and double match point down.  

The teenager responded with a scud down the tee for an ace and then forced Huang to hit long to get back to deuce.  His opponent, in reply, hit another nonchalant backhand down the line that painted the corner.  Advantage Huang, one point away from defeat, again.  Wong managed to pull his opponent wide with a crosscourt forehand to force another error out of Huang.  Back to deuce.  Then, the HK rep drilled a heavy crosscourt backhand to force another error from Huang, as he held for 5-5.  At 15-30 the following game, Huang double faulted and Wong capitalised on the opportunity to win a long rally to break again for a 6-5 lead.  The teenager served out the set 7-5 to draw even at a set apiece with all the momentum behind him now.

Exhibiting a body language that is decidedly of a non-positive kind, Huang lost serve twice in a row to fall behind 4-0 at the beginning of the third.  Then, serving for the match leading 5-2, Wong lost focus momentarily to let Huang peg the score back to 5-3.  The 19-year-old, however, righted that wrong swiftly by breaking the dejected Huang one last time to secure a 4-6 7-5 6-3 victory.

Wong’s opponent in the semifinal is a formidable one.  Second-seeded world No. 112 Aleksandar Kovacevic not only won Challenger titles at Cleveland and Waco, he also registered wins against Richard Gasquet, Steve Johnson, Wu Yibing (twice), and world No. 13 Cameron Norrie this season.  Kovacevic, who plays with a single backhand, headed into Luohu having just won the Longhua Challenger the week before.  However, he was unable to overcome some physical issues following a tough three-set win in the quarters the day before and was forced to concede a walkover prior to start of the match against Wong.

The teenager had another epic battle earlier in the second round when he trailed No. 3 seed Terence Atmane of France by a set.   Ranked at a career-high No. 132, the left-handed Frenchman is in the form of his life, having won Challenger titles in Zhangjiagang and Guangzhou in September and making it to the second round at last week’s Masters 1000 Shanghai.  The match was tight from start to finish, with Atmane saving 12 of 15 and Wong 6 of 8 break points they faced.  Total points won had Atmane with 103 against Wong’s 102.

Even though Atmane saved three match points from 0-40 down in the ninth game to hold for 5-4 and broke Wong to force a 5-5 stalemate, it was Wong who finished the stronger of the two when it mattered most.    For at 5-5, 40-40, the Frenchman committed costly consecutive backhand errors to yield his serve before the teenager from Hong Kong held his service game one last time to seal a hard-fought 3-6 6-3 7-5 victory.

Wong’s immediate reward for reaching the final of the Shenzhen Luohu Challenger is 50 computer ranking points, his biggest haul from any one tournament so far in his career, plus US$6,355 (HK$49,723).

Challenger 75
Shenzhen (Luohu), China
October 15-21, 2023

First Round
Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (q)Xiao Linang (CHN) 6-3 7-6(4)

Second Round
Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (3)Terence Atmane (FRA) 3-6 6-3 7-5

Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (q)Huang Tsung-Hao (TPE) 4-6 7-5 6-3

Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (2)Aleksandar Kovacevic (USA) W/O

(1)James Duckworth (AUS) d. Coleman Wong (HKG) 6-0 6-1