In the midst of a pandemic, a Centre Court devoid of fanfare and commotion felt eerily desolate. However, that did not dampen the competitive spirits of elite athletes Brian Yeung and Eudice Chong, who added the Prudential Hong Kong National Tennis Championships 2020 men’s and ladies』 singles titles respectively to their recent haul of local majors following the CRC Open earlier this month.
In the men’s singles final on Sunday at Victoria Park Tennis Stadium, Yeung, the No. 1 seed, yielded just two games in a 6-2, 6-0, demolition job on former two-time winner, Jack Wong, to claim his first men’s singles title after a runner-up finish to Kevin Wong last year.
Yeung’s most taxing outing came in the second round against Sunny Yue when he blew a pair of match points in the second set before going through, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. 「To be fair, if I was able to convert those two match points, it could have just been 6-3, 6-4, but Sunny got into a groove after he held his serve,」 laments the reigning CRC Open champion.
「Overall, a very solid week. Had a tough match in the second round, but I’m very happy with my physical effort and mental attitude exerted in each match. In the finals, I was able to fight hard to get some early breaks, and serves got better as the match progressed and I was able to set up easy points with it.」
Yeung now heads to King’s Park for next month’s SCAA Open a live chance for the local Triple Crown previously attained only by Colin Grant (1984), Goran Bosalevski (2007), and Phillip King (2013).
In the ladies』 singles final, a repeat of the CRC Open less than a month ago, Cody Wong squandered a 40-15 lead in the opening game and laboured to save a break point before holding serve for 1-0. Chong, the top-seeded WTA No. 385, wasted no time in letting her intentions known, as she wrestled five games on the trot to place an immediate stranglehold on proceedings. Wong, the 18-year-old who peaked at No. 18 in the junior world rankings earlier this year, fought on gamely and saved five consecutive set points in the eighth game before Chong was able to hold for the set, 6-2.
In the ensuing set, Chong again applied pressure right off the bat and broke the teenager but Wong also made clear she was not going down without a fight by saving two game points to break back to force a 1-1 stalemate. It was on serve until the sixth game when the No. 1 uncharacteristically let slip a bunch of game points to lose serve to trail 4-2.
Chong, equally stubborn, dug deep and thwarted her opponent on no less than four occasions before Wong managed to consolidate the service break to move ahead 5-2. The top seed held easily to stay in the set trailing 5-3 but Wong produced an error-free service game to hold for a love game and the set, 6-3.
In the third, servers dominated the early going until the eighth game when Chong seized a small window of opportunity to break for a 5-3 lead. The teenager was far from done, as she tidied up her game when it mattered and conceded just two points in the next two service games to break back for a 5-5 impasse. Feeling the effects of a thigh strain, the top seed held nonetheless to edge ahead 6-5 when an injury timeout was called. Wong paid no attention and quickly went up 40-0 only to lose her way momentarily and that allowed Chong to force deuce. Their quality play was summed up on match point when after exchanging several crosscourt backhands, a heavy ball from the No. 1 seed forced the server to reach for a hurried, double-fisted reply.
Chong then pounced on the short ball and came in behind a whipping forehand crosscourt that sent Wong scrambling on a lateral dash to run it down with a forehand. The No. 1 seed has by now positioned herself advantageously at the top of the net to make a forehand volley back to Wong’s backhand corner. Although the teenager was quick to her feet, she could only throw up a weak lob, which the world No. 385 duly smashed it away for a winner to end the enthralling contest, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, in two hours and fifty-five minutes.
It took 36 years, but with the win, Eudice Chong became the first player to equal Paulette Moreno’s feat of winning the ladies』 singles, ladies』 doubles, and mixed doubles titles simultaneously at both the CRC Open and the HK Nationals in the same year.
Chong: 「It was a tough match against Cody but I think we both enjoyed competing against each other again. I’m happy that my training translated to my wins on court these past two tournaments, and it’s especially exciting to be able to play on Centre Court at the Nationals after six years again.」
「Started to play more solid and was moving better and faster in the second. Third set was pretty close, down 3-5, managed to come back to 5-5, and then 5-6, 40-0, unfortunately I lost the chance to make it to the tiebreak,」 said Wong, whose previous best at the Nationals was a runner-up finish to Zhang Ling in 2017.
In men’s doubles, second-seeded Jack Wong/Kevin Wong came from a set down to beat defending champions and No. 1 seed Brian Yeung/Lee Hsin-Han 4-6 6-1 [10-7] to lift the title. In doing so, they put an end to the HK-Taiwanese combination’s run of six straight local majors that started at the SCAA Open 2018.
Wong and Wong had break point opportunities to break Lee in the opening set but failed to capitalise. The lone break against Jack in the seventh game was all the No. 1 seed needed to steal the set. In the second, the No. 2 seed stayed strong and broke through twice to force a third set super-tiebreak. Wong and Wong went ahead with three mini-breaks and never surrendered the lead with Yeung eventually double-faulting on match point to concede defeat.
「Feels good to be on court again and it’s good to know I can still compete with the best players in Hong Kong,」 said Kevin Wong.
In the mixed doubles final, Kevin Wong/Eudice Chong were trailing 4-3 in the first set when they hit the clutch to move up a gear and went on a seven-game tear to blow up proceedings before easing to a 6-4, 6-2, victory over Lee Hsin-Han/Maggie Ng, 6-4, 6-2.
Following Saturday evening’s prize presentation, Chong said: 「Playing with Kevin has been a lot of fun, especially since we’ve had some experience playing at other bigger international events. Winning with a good friend always makes it more enjoyable!」
After claiming the ladies』 singles and mixed doubles, Chong made it a clean sweep when she partnered Zhang Ling to beat No. 2 seed Maggie Ng/Sher Chun Wing, 6-3, 4-6, [10-5] to win the ladies』 doubles title.
「Lynn and I have played a decent amount together in the past and we always have great chemistry. We had some lucky shots today, but converted some important points. I’m very happy we managed to come out on top and it’s been an amazing two weeks of competition.」