HK keep tie alive after switch to indoor venue

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 February, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 February, 2004, 12:00am

A change in venue amounted to a change in luck as Hong Kong kept their Davis Cup hopes alive against Kuwait by winning yesterday's crucial doubles at the Chinese Recreation Club last night.

John Hui and Brian Hung came to the SAR's rescue by combining effectively to hand 16-year-olds Abdullah Magdas and Ahmad Rabea a 6-3, 6-2, 6-0 defeat and prevent a premature end to the Asia/Oceania Zone Group Two first round match after Kuwait had taken a 2-0 lead in rubbers.

Kuwait's non-playing captain Abdulredha Al Ghareeb took a chance by fielding the inexperienced Rabea instead of his son, Kuwaiti number one, Mohammad Al Ghareeb, in a match that could have wrapped up the tie for the visitors. Between the two, the new Kuwaiti doubles team had played indoors just once. And it showed.

Al Ghareeb Snr's policy of giving youth a chance backfired with the Kuwaiti pair given a lesson by the more experienced Hong Kong duo, who easily won the 62-minute encounter before a small crowd of jubilant supporters.

The match was switched to the Chinese Recreation Club after both teams agreed to play indoors because rain threatened to wreak more havoc to the tie. The tie has been extended an extra day because of the inclement weather. The doubles match was supposed to have been played on Saturday, but was rescheduled to yesterday.

The switch in venues helped Hong Kong's cause tremendously as Hui and Hung capitalised on Kuwait's unfamiliarity with the new venue's fast hardcourt surface and surroundings.

Hong Kong non-playing captain Derek Ling breathed a sigh of relief as he watched his charges claw their way back into the tie. It now comes down to the two reverse singles to decide the fate of the tie at Victoria Park. 'Our team played very well today. Brian Hung played well with some great returns. John and Brian are very accomplished doubles players. They have carried our team [to victory] in a lot of ties before. But we are still in a hole and we need to win both our matches to win it tomorrow,' Ling said.

'I didn't realise that one of their players had never played indoors before [Rabea] and that they are both 16 years old. The other player has played in a semi-indoor arena but never in an enclosed building.

'Kuwait played very well and all credit to them considering they are just 16. They took a 3-1 lead in the first set, but our team played a little better. They [Kuwait] have two very good juniors with a bright future,' added Ling.

Hong Kong still face an enormous battle ahead with Kuwait requiring just one rubber from the remaining two to seal victory in the tie.

First up will be Hong Kong's Yiu Hiu-tung, the recently-turned 20-year-old against talented Al Ghareeb followed by Michael Brown taking on Musaad Al Jazzaf. Both matches are scheduled to be played back at Victoria Park, with the first match starting at 11am, weather permitting.

Al Ghareeb Snr said he will look forward to today's reverse singles, adding that he was still confident of ultimate victory.

'Hong Kong played a very good match. They played solidly against our inexperienced pair. We decided to give the young players a chance to play at this level. Hopefully, we will win tomorrow,' Al Ghareeb said.

Al Ghareeb earlier said that his team would stay in Hong Kong for 'as long as it takes' to complete unfinished business in the match after rain threatened to wipe out play yesterday for the second straight day. He made those comments before the decision was made to move the venue indoors.