It's the end of the line for Yu Hiu-tung. The Hong Kong ace will set a Davis Cup record tomorrow when he becomes the player with the most number of appearances - 22 - but revealed the tie against Syria at Victoria Park will be his last.
'This is the last time I will be playing for Hong Kong in Davis Cup,' Yu said yesterday. 'I can't find the time to devote to training due to my work commitments. It is time for younger players to take over.'
The left-handed Yu, 28, will spearhead the bid to avoid relegation this weekend when Hong Kong meet Syria in the Asia/Oceania Zone Group Two tie.
Life has come full circle for Yu, who's Davis Cup career started in 2002: 'The first time I played, it was against Malaysia,' Yu reminisced. 'We won that tie and I played in a dead rubber.'
That won't be the case 21 ties down the line, with Yu now Hong Kong's number one, a burden he has carried for the past few years. But it has become more difficult as he contemplates a future where work and a career as a tennis coach beckons.
'It is becoming more difficult to train when you are not a full-time player. I have to coach for a living, but to prepare for an event like this I need to take time off for at least a month. The Hong Kong Tennis Association pays me something and it's not too bad, but I cannot go on like this in the future,' he said.
Like Yu, the other two locally based players in the squad, Jonathan Chu and Coenie Van Wyk, are also part-time players. Nicholas Sayer, the other player in the squad, is studying in the United States. Hong Kong hasn't had a locally based full-time player since 2007, when tennis was an elite sport and Yu was a scholarship athlete at the Sports Institute.
'This is an ever-present problem for Hong Kong,' said non-playing Davis Cup captain Andy Brothers. 'It's tough for guys like Yu to train three hours a day with the team and then go and give coaching lessons. I can't blame him for looking out for his future.'
Yu, who will break the previous record of 21 ties which he shares with Mark Bailey, is hoping to sign off on a winning note as Hong Kong seeks to avoid relegation to Group Three.
'We have home court advantage and I'm confident we can beat Syria,' said Yu, who will take heart from his performance against Pakistan in the opening round tie in March when he defeated Aisam ul-Haq Qureshi in a gripping four-hour, five-set match.
'That is probably the best moment of my career. I had never won a five-setter before that and beating a guy like Qureshi was quite something,' Yu said. 'I'm proud to have represented Hong Kong, but working and playing is quite difficult.'
The draw for the tie will take place today.