Bosalevski seals HK triple crown
Hong Kong's newest Davis Cup hope, Goran Bosalevski, completed a clean sweep of all three major titles on the local scene when he beat Michael Lai Xiaopeng in straight sets to win the Hong Kong championships at Victoria Park yesterday.
Bosalevski, formerly of Yugoslavia and Australia, but now resident in Hong Kong, had to ward off a mid-game crisis and a determined Lai before emerging a 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) victor in the men's singles final.
The victory made Bosalevski the first player since Shane Barr, in 1997, to win all three major local titles - the other two being the South China Athletic Association Open and the Chinese Recreation Club Open.
Bosalevski's triumphant year also underlined his credentials for a berth in Hong Kong's Davis Cup squad preparing for February's Asia Oceania Zone group II opening-round tie against Indonesia.
'I hope these victories will boost my chances of selection into the Hong Kong team,' said Bosalevski. 'I didn't expect to win all three tournaments, but now that I have, I would like to play for Hong Kong.'
If picked, Bosalevski, 29, will not be entirely a stranger to Davis Cup competition. He represented Macedonia in 1999 in the Europe/Africa Zone. But having been resident in Hong Kong for the past three years, Bosalevski says he is now ready to carry the Bauhinia flag.
'I want to play for Hong Kong. This is my home now,' he said after picking up his silverware. Hong Kong Davis Cup captain Derek Ling Hay-ming will surely have pencilled him in already.
For a brief moment yesterday, Bosalevski's bid to join Barr and Michael Grant (in 1984) as the only players to win the local triple crown looked shaky as Lai somehow found an untapped reservoir of confidence to stage a comeback from trailing 6-2, 5-1.
Lai saved one match point at 30-40 in the seventh game, and then reeled off the next four games to take the second set into a tie-break. Bosalevski, whose game seemed to have gone to pieces after the chair umpire had ruled a line call in favour of Lai, somehow manage to soak up the pressure and saved four set points before serving out the tie-break.
'I was relieved that it didn't go into a decider. Michael's confidence would have been up and he could have won it, especially with the crowd getting behind him,' Bosalevski said.
Lai, who is also a Davis Cup hopeful, said: 'It's a shame I couldn't quite pull it off in the second set. I kept fighting, for I know he gets a bit nervous when he is in front. I lost to him in both the other two tournaments in the semi-finals and I know his game pretty well. If I had levelled the set score, I would have had a good chance.'
But despite being rattled by Lai, Bosalevski hung on to complete a clean sweep in 2007. Now Hong Kong tennis will hope that he can provide the winning spark in 2008, too.