Hui looks forward to facing Rafter
John Hui Kin-yip is relishing his rare chance to perform on the same stage as the big boys when he lines up against Australia's former blue-eyed boy Patrick Rafter in the first round of the Salem Hong Kong Open at Victoria Park. The reward for the winner, if the seedings go to plan, is a second-round clash against top-seeded American Pete Sampras. But for Hui, anything beyond the first round is as distant as the horizon, although he believes the two tough matches he had in the territory's 5-0 Davis Cup defeat to Thailand in Bangkok have had their benefits. The 18-year-old Hong Kong junior, who was given a wild card into the tournament, yesterday put on an improved performance but still went down 6-3, 6-2 to Thailand's Vorapol Thongkamchu in the reverse singles.
In the other singles, Graeme Foster, replacing the injured Pang Lui, lost 6-0, 6-4 to Thanakorn Srichaphan as the Thais completed the formalities after taking a winning 3-0 lead on Saturday. Hui said the 89th-ranked Rafter, also a wild card entry, will pose an even harder challenge than the Thais. 'To me, it does not really make any difference who I play in the first round because they are all professionals and all tough players,' said Hui. 'The past three days have helped me as I've played good players who hit the ball with a lot more pace than juniors.' It is a rare opportunity for Hui to play against a touring professional. He played India's Leander Paes in a dead rubber in last year's Davis Cup competition and lost 6-3, 6-1.
Rafter burst on to the scene two years ago. He reached the final of the 1994 Hong Kong Open and, suffering from a fever, went down to Michael Chang. His fortunes on the circuit have since plunged and he has dropped from a top-20 place last year to his current 89. But with youngster Mark Philippoussis taking over the role as Australia's next potential champion, much of the pressure has been removed from Rafter's shoulders. Looking forward to his clash with Hui, he said: 'He is a local youngster and I'm sure he is very capable. It should be a good match.' On his expected second-round clash with Sampras, he said: 'It could have been worse. I could have got him in the first round.'