Top seed Jack Wong claimed his third career men’s singles title at the Prudential Hong Kong National Tennis Championships when defending champion Kevin Wong was forced to retire due to a leg injury while trailing, 6-3, 3-2. Wildcard entrant Sviatlana Pirazhenka, who once held a WTA ranking No. 371, overcame a 3-hour plus, three-set battle against teenager Christy Che, 6-7(9), 7-5, 6-3, to capture the ladies’ singles crown.
HKTA President Philip Mok and HKTA Player Development Committee Chairman Dr. Derek Ling were on hand to preside over the prize presentation ceremony.
The start of the men’s singles final saw servers dominate proceedings until the eighth game when it was becoming apparent that the defending champ’s mobility was deteriorating and although he managed to save the first break point with a service winner after falling behind 0-40 with a double fault, that was not enough to stop the No. 1 seed from breaking through to go up 5-3. Jack Wong duly held to snatch the opener 6-3.
After getting treatment following an injury timeout, Kevin Wong persevered through the first four games of the second set until 2-2 when he suddenly found himself facing a 15-40 hole. Even though he managed to tough out one break point after another laboriously, Jack Wong alas came good on his sixth break opportunity to go up 3-2. At this juncture, the defending champ decided he was physically unable to continue and had to concede what was developing into an inevitable defeat to the top seed. Jack Wong thus picked up his third men’s singles trophy here after winning back-to-back in 2017 and 2018.
In the ladies’ singles final that was played on Saturday, it began promisingly for Belarusian Sviatlana Pirazhenka, who broke serve twice early to jump out to a 4-1 lead. Although the former world No. 371 let slip one of those breaks, she still served for the set with a 5-4 lead in hand. However, 17-year-old first time finalist Christy Che knuckled down to recover the second break to force a tiebreak. The teenager went up 4-0 and 5-2 before Pirazhenka produced consecutive mini-breaks to win the next four points. She held set points at 6-5 and 7-6 but could not convert. Then, it was Che’s turn to hold set points at 8-7 and 9-8 before she broke her opponent one last time to steal the tiebreak 11-9.
In the second set, the players exchanged a pair of service breaks to bring the score to 4-4 when Che broke a tired looking Pirazhenka to lead 5-4. However, a couple of loose shots here and there gave the Belarusian just enough daylight to mount a fightback in the nick of time and she capitalised by breaking twice in succession to snag the set 7-5.
The teenager then brushed off the disappointment of having been a mere game away from victory by breaking Pirazhenka in the first and third games of the final set. Just when the momentum was about to shift, the Belarusian answered with a break of her own to force another 2-2 impasse. In a pivotal couple of games, Pirazhenka saved three break points to hold on precariously for a slender 3-2 advantage. Che then lost serve again, this time after holding a 40-0 lead, as the experience of the former pro player was clearly wear down the teenager. Pirazhenka held her last two service games unceremoniously to wrap up a titanic 6-7(9), 7-5, 6-3, victory in three hours and eleven minutes.
“I was thrilled to have reached the final and facing an opponent like her who was ranked No. 371 in the world can only help me grow as a player. I came up just a little short today but it was a great learning experience for me. It made me realise I want to keep improving my game and do well in these big events. I’ll keep working hard and hopefully I’ll play here again next year,” said Che, who never lost her cool in the entire match.
In a confluence of unexpected results, the top 4 seeds were simultaneously upset in the opening round, with Chloris Li defeating No. 1 Maggie Ng, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4, qualifier Athena Yeung accounting for No. 2 Ki Yan Tung, 7-6(2), 6-4, Che Sin Yu coming from a set down to beat No. 3 Sheena Masuda, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, and Sviatlana Pirazhenka overcoming No. 4 Justine Leong, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, in a three-hour-and-eighteen-minute seesaw battle. It took the Belarusian another three sets to get past Luk Kei Yuen, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.
Che had earlier eliminated 3rd seed and last year’s runner-up Sheena Masuda in the opening round, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-0, en route to her maiden ladies’ singles final at a local major. Since the advent of the Championships in 1978, the youngest player to reach the ladies’ singles final was Paulette Moreno, who was 11 years and 263 days old when she reached her first final in 1980. The youngest ladies’ singles champion was Patricia Hy, who was 13 years and 100 days old when she triumphed at the inaugural event.
In a closely-fought men’s doubles final, No. 2 seed Kelvin Lam/Lee Hsin-Han had the upper hand in the early going, kept their opponents at bay efficiently, and carved out a 6-4, 4-2, lead when Kevin Wong required medical attention to his sore right shoulder. Miraculously, coming out of the changeover, both he and his partner, Jack Wong, took turns to catch fire that was highlighted by a string of spectacular pinpoint volleys and aggressive service returns that were, at moments, unplayable. By the time the top-seeded duo forced their way to the third set super-tiebreak, they were in full-flight and took control of proceedings to defend their title, winning it, 4-6, 6-4, [10-5].
Elsewhere, two-time defending champions Zhang Ling/Sher Chun Wing beat second-seeded Maggie Ng/Nikita Tang in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, to claim their third straight ladies’ doubles title. “Always exited to be back on court competing, especially winning while having so much fun with my partner. I also had the chance to watch some of the upcoming juniors play and share my experiences with them. Hopefully, I can inspire them in many different ways,” said former Hong Kong No. 1, Zhang Ling.
In the mixed doubles, US collegians Sebastian Nothhaft/Sheena Masuda collaborated to beat top seed Jack Wong/Sher Chun Wing 7-5, 6-3 to crown champions. Nothhaft and Masuda capitalised on their break point opportunities well and went 3 for 3 to break Sher three times en route to their maiden HK Nationals title. “We came out a little nervous but I think we did really well in the big moments, overcoming 0-40 deficits to hold twice, and that made a real difference because it was a close match that could have gone either way,” says Nothhaft.
In the opening game, Nothhaft struggled with serve and fell behind 0-40 in the blink of an eye, but after finding a couple of good first deliveries, he managed to serve his way out of trouble by coming up with four straight points to hold for 1-0. Games then went with serve until 3-3 when the No. 1 seed broke through courtesy of a pair of costly double faults from Masuda. However, they were unable consolidate the break, as their opponents broke Sher’s serve at 15 to even proceedings at 4-4. Nothhaft and Wong both belted aces on game point to hold easily to take the score to 5-5. After a love hold from Masuda, they conspired to break Sher again to snag the set, 7-5.
In the second, servers dominated the opening six games when Masuda suddenly found herself trailing 0-40 but, again, the collegians managed to dig themselves out of the hole by winning the next four points on the trot to hold for 4-3. Then, after jumping out to a 30-0 lead, Sher was broken again after Nothhaft and Masuda strung together another 4-point run to go up 5-3. Nothhaft then quickly stacked up a 40-0 advantage and although the top seed managed to save two match points, the collegians held firm to win, 7-5, 6-3. Wong and Sher are no strangers to mixed doubles, as they had previously combined to win three SCAA Opens from 2013-2015 and four CRC Opens from 2013-2015 and 2021.
This year’s Championships once again featured nine events, namely the President Cup men’s and ladies’ singles and doubles, in addition to the top flight men’s and ladies’ singles and doubles, plus mixed doubles. The tournament attracted a total of 1,241 entries, while the total prize purse on offer this year was HK$406,350.
Prudential Hong Kong National Tennis Championships
Victoria Park Tennis Courts
Jun 18-Jul 31, 2022
(1)Jack Wong d. (2)Kevin Wong 6-3 3-2 Retired
(WC)Sviatlana Pirazhenka d. Christy Che 6-7(9) 7-5 6-3
(1)Jack Wong/Kevin Wong d. (2)Kelvin Lam/Lee Hsin-Han 4-6 6-4 [10-5]
(1)Zhang Ling/Sher Chun Wing d. (2)Maggie Ng/Nikita Tang 6-2 6-2
(4)Sebastian Nothhaft/Sheena Masuda d. (1)Jack Wong/Sher Chun Wing 7-5 6-3
(2)Nicholas Cheng d. (4)Makson Chan 6-1 7-6(2)
(1)Hebe Leung d. (q)Rachelle De Guzman 1-6 6-4 7-5
(q)Lai Ka Wang/Wong Tsz Hin d. (q)Shepherd Cheung/Wu Pak Sum 6-3 6-4
Chloe Wong/Sze Hiu Tung d. (q)Leung Nga Lam/Cameron Yeung 6-2 6-4