While Super Typhoon Saola was leaving in its wake a trail of havoc, Coleman Wong was mired in a dogfight in almost every round this past week at the M25 Hong Kong event at Victoria Park. The 19-year-old was down 5-2 in the first set in round one, lost the opening set in round two, trailed 8-5 in third set super-tiebreak in the quarterfinal, and down two match points in both the semis and final before he produced one Houdini act after another to escape with victory from the jaws of defeat to capture his second career, and first US$25,000, ITF World Tennis Tour men’s singles title.
He writes on IG: “First 25K professional singles title! It’s for sure the best feeling to win at home. Breaking another Hong Kong record is just amazing! Thank you so much to my coaches from the academy and also my family and my closest friends. To all the hongkongers who came to support!”
Against qualifier Kim Young Seok in the first round, Wong lost serve early and was quickly faced with a tricky 5-2 deficit. Although he managed to get back on serve at 5-4, he was forced to save two set points in the ninth game before he finally took the opening set in a tough tiebreak. In the second, it was neck and neck until the twelfth game when Kim coughed up two double faults, including one on match point to lose serve, to hand Wong the victory 7-6(3) 7-5.
In the second round against another Korean, Jeong Yeongseok, Wong was unable to create any break point opportunities in the first set and got broken twice instead to lose 6-2. In the second, servers dominated proceedings until the eighth game when Wong managed to capitalise on his third break point chance and broke Jeong to go up 5-3 before holding for 6-3 with authority. Then, trailing 2-1 in the third, Wong went on a five-game tear, throwing down at least two unreturnable serves in each of his next three service games, to close out the set and the match 2-6 6-3 6-2.
In the quarterfinal, Wong was seemingly in cruise control after breaking Kazuki Nishiwaki twice in succession from two-all to take the first set 6-2. In the second, unforced errors, however, came in a flurry and things began to turn south in the ninth game when Wong failed to convert on three straight break points to allow the Japanese to hold for 5-4. Just when it seemed it was heading towards an unavoidable tiebreak, Wong lost serve in the twelfth game to concede the set 7-5. The teenager began the third set super-TB with an immediate mini break only to see Nishiwaki respond with three consecutive mini breaks to go up 5-1. Then, trailing 8-5 and a mere two points from defeat, Wong snatched five points in a row, including a thumping ace on match point, to win 6-2 5-7 [10-8].
Then, in the semis against American qualifier, Henrik Wiersholm, who beat a young Denis Shapovalov in 2015 en route to the USA F33 Futures title, things got increasingly more difficult for Wong, as his opponent’s play improved significantly towards the business end. However, Wong’s athletic prowess was put on display, as his ability to run down well-executed drop shots from deep began to put doubts in his opponent’s mind. Still, the Hong Kong No. 1 was teetering on the brink of defeat and had to stave off two match points, first at 9-8, and then 10-9, in the third set super-tiebreak in order to prevail 6-3 5-7 [12-10]. Yet, due to previous rain delays and the doubles final still to come, Wong had to return to court after a short rest to proceed with the singles final against Egor Gerasimov, who earlier ousted reigning All China Games singles and doubles gold medalist, Li Zhe.
The final versus Gerasimov began in a somewhat subdued manner, perhaps unsure at what capacity Wong can perform now that he is embarking on his second match of the evening. There were no opportunities for either player to break until the tenth game when serving at 30-40, Wong was broken by Gerasimov and fell behind by a set. Then, at 4-3 in the second with Wong serving next up, time was called at 10:30pm with the match resuming in the morning. However, when morning came, so did the rain.
Alas, the final got restarted after it was moved to the indoor courts at the nearby Chinese Recreation Club. Resuming at 1pm sharp, Gerasimov broke Wong immediately to go up 5-3 and the chance to serve out a quick victory. To his credit, Wong’s fight was never in question, and he duly broke back to 15 to force a 5-5 stalemate. Then, in the ensuing tiebreak, Gerasimov had a pair of match points, but two backhand misses, one that hit the top of the tape at 7-6, then another backhand that sailed way long at 8-7, gave the teenager enough daylight to run off with the next two points to snag the breaker, 10-8.
In the third set super-tiebreak, Wong had a mini break in hand and a slender 5-4 lead when the teenager went off with the next five points to secure a memorable come-from-behind 4-6 7-6(8) [10-4] victory to seal his maiden US$25,000 win and second career singles title, with this one coming on home soil for the first time. The victory will net a new career-high ATP ranking for Wong.
Up next for the 19-year-old is the Davis Cup World Group II first round tie against Latvia at Victoria Park Centre Court this Saturday and Sunday. Coleman Wong has played No. 1 singles for the team since March 2022 and he will lead the line of defense against a visiting side without their all-time great, Ernests Gulbis, who has retired from tennis following February’s World Group I Play-Offs. Latvia’s top singles player, Robert Strombachs, is ranked No. 385, while Mikelis Libietis is their top doubles player with a ranking of No. 145. The doubles combination of Coleman Wong and Jack Wong is currently undefeated at 3-0 following wins against Venezuela, Benin, and Malaysia.
Then, at the end of this month, is the Hangzhou Asian Games. The tennis events will be held from September 24-30.
M25 Hong Kong
Victoria Park Tennis Courts
September 3-10, 2023
(2)Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (q)Kim Young Seok (KOR) 7-6(3) 7-5
(2)Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Jeong Yeongseok (KOR) 2-6 6-3 6-2
(2)Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Kazuki Nishiwaki (JPN) 6-2 5-7 [10-8]
(2)Coleman Wong (HKG) d. (q)Henrik Wiersholm (USA) 6-3 5-7 [12-10]
(2)Coleman Wong (HKG) d. Egor Gerasimov 4-6 7-6(8) [10-4]
Coleman Wong/Jack Wong (HKG) d. (WC)Dasson Chan/Roger Ng (HKG) 6-1 6-4
Coleman Wong/Jack Wong (HKG) d. Mo Yecong/Yin Bang Shuo (CHN/TPE) 4-6 6-1 [10-4]
Coleman Wong/Jack Wong (HKG) d. Jesse Delaney/Ajeet Rai (AUS/NZL) Walkover
Ryuki Matsuda/Son Ji Hoon (JPN/KOR) d. Coleman Wong/Jack Wong (HKG) 7-5 6-4