HK relegated after Davis Cup loss to Sri Lanka
If any day was tailor-made for a miracle, then Easter Sunday fitted the bill. But there was no hope of bringing Hong Kong back to life as they were relegated to group three in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Zone in 2013 by Sri Lanka, who won the relegation play-off 3-1 by clinching the first of the reverse singles at Victoria Park.
Despite a brave effort from Jonathan Chu, who took Sri Lankan number one Harshana Godamanna to five sets, the writing was always on the wall for the home team, who had needed to win both reverse singles to stand a chance of avoiding relegation.
After a tense four-hour stand-off, the left-handed Godamanna emerged victorious 7-6 (13-11), 5-7, 6-0, 5-7, 6-3 to bury Hong Kong's hopes of surviving in Group Two for yet another year. Now for the first time since 2005, the city's tennis players will find themselves swimming with the minnows in Asia.
'It is very disappointing but the key was always going to be the doubles which we also lost in five sets,' said Andy Brothers, Hong Kong's non-playing captain. 'We knew we had to win the doubles to stand a chance as the Sri Lankan number one was the standout player amongst the two teams and we knew he would most likely win both his singles. But full credit to Jonathan for pushing him all the way.'
Godamanna, who defeated Yu Hiu-tung 3-1 in the opening singles and then teamed up with Rajeev Rajapakse to win the doubles, defeating Chu and Yu on Saturday, played the big points better yesterday. In the first set, with Chu on three set points at 6-5, Godamanna reeled off four consecutive winners to take the set instead to a tiebreak, which he clinched after a marathon struggle.
Chu, using a big serve to maximum effect, bounced back to level the score at 1-1, but seemed to hurt his back lunging for a shot at the tail end of the second set. This left him almost immobile and his opponent made the most of it, taking the third set without dropping a game and then rushing to a 5-1 lead in the fourth.
But Chu came storming back. Godamanna, thinking Chu was still struggling on his backhand from that injury, changed his tactics. Instead of moving Chu around the court as he had been doing, he kept peppering Chu's backhand, but with a minimum of fuss the Hongkonger reeled off the next six games to push the tie to a decider.
However, Godamanna resumed normal service at that juncture, crucially breaking Chu twice, at either end of the set, to seal Hong Kong's fate in front of a 600-strong crowd.
'This is perhaps one of our biggest wins in Davis Cup history. To win away is huge and we are delighted with this result,' said Sri Lankan captain Rohan de Silva.