An attempt by the Hong Kong Tennis Association to win back the sport's elite status at the Sports Institute and regain millions of dollars in support has been blocked by University Sports Federation of Hong Kong (FISU), who have refused to send a full-strength squad of four players for the 27th Summer Universiade in Russia in July.
The University Games offer Hong Kong tennis a good chance of acquiring the four points needed to reach the nine-point benchmark and attain elite sports status. To achieve this, a player has to reach the semi-finals of any event - singles, doubles or mixed doubles. But a HKTA request to send two men and two women so that Hong Kong can take part in all events was turned down on the grounds that the players were "not up to standard".
"We were very disheartened to find out that we had been turned down," said HKTA executive council member Herbert Chow Siu-lung. "Originally they allowed us to send only one player but then changed their minds and said we could send a boy and a girl. After pleading our case, they increased it by one but we still fall short of the desired four which would increase our chances of reaching the semi-finals in the singles and doubles events.
"Right now we are short by four points of reaching the standard set by the Sports Institute and believe we could get them in Russia. It would be nice if our chances were increased by fielding a full squad, however."
Tiffany Wu Ho-ching and Kelvin Lam Siu-fai were first given permission to represent Hong Kong by the University Games committee of FISU. After further representation from the HKTA, Ki Yan-tung was added to the squad. But the request to add James Kong, who is studying and playing on the collegiate circuit for Berkeley University in California, has been turned down.
"They said our players were not up to standard and didn't have ATP or WTA points," said a bemused Chow.
"Only Tiffany has WTA points but then again very few juniors have official ranking points. But we still believe our players would be competitive, especially in the doubles."
Dr Patrick Chan, chairman of the University Games committee selection panel, did not reply to a Post e-mail seeking his explanation. When contacted yesterday, Chan said he was in Shanghai and too busy to answer questions.
"If we had been only able to send one player as originally granted, we would only have had one chance of reaching the semi-finals. After much persuasion, they increased it to two then three, and as we stand now, we have five chances - three singles, a doubles and mixed doubles. Another player would give us the maximum eight chances possible," said HKTA executive director Bally Bang.
Tennis was dropped from the Hong Kong Sports Institute's elite programme in 2008. It had received millions of dollars in support since its entry in 2001, thanks to a bronze medal won by John Hui Kin-yip and Melvin Tong Man-chung in the men's doubles at the China National Games.
"It would mean a lot to the sport to get back into the SI. Right now we get HK$1.5 million under the Tier B funding for up-and-coming sports, but if we get back full-time it will mean at least another HK$3.5 million. But to be denied the opportunity to maximise our chance is frustrating," said Chow.
Athletes have to bear part of the cost for representing Hong Kong at the University Games.