AMERICAN Jim Courier, unseated as the world number one by Pete Sampras, is hoping to put a nightmare fortnight in Japan behind him as he launches his Salem Hongkong Open campaign in more ''homely'' conditions at Victoria Park. Defending champion Courier, whose third-round defeat in Tokyo last week cost him his top ranking, admitted while in the Japanese capital that his heart was not in Asia. But he is hoping Hongkong's more familiar environment will spark him back into top gear. ''I am struggling a little bit,'' he said. ''I have not been playing too well in Asia. ''But I'm happy to be in Hongkong. It feels like I'm back in the States compared to Japan.'' Courier was beaten in Tokyo by fellow American Jonathan Stark. The previous week, he was beaten in the semi-finals by Israel's Amos Mansdorf at the Osaka tournament, which was eventually won by Hongkong favourite Michael Chang. But Chang, who arrived in the territory yesterday, will also be hoping to recover from a disappointing event in Tokyo where he was beaten in the second round by Australian Todd Woodbridge in a match that went to a third-set tie-break. ''I had a tough week in Osaka, where I played five matches, three of them going to three sets,'' said Chang, who makes his eighth visit to Hongkong but is still looking for his first tournament win here. ''I had my chances to win the match in Tokyo. But mentally I'm feeling good and hopefully I can win in Hongkong this time. ''But I'm not putting myself under any pressure to win here.'' Chang, ranked eighth in the world, is seeded third in the Hongkong event behind Courier and Sampras, who meets Brad Gilbert in today's Tokyo final. Courier, however, is not going to concern himself with rankings but will put victory in Hongkong top of his priority list. ''Rankings are important to everybody, but it is more important to win tournaments and major titles,'' he said. ''Pete deserves to be number one and I'm just thinking about what I'm going to do in this tournament.'' Courier came into last year's tournament as the new world number one having dethroned Sweden's Stefan Edberg. Both Chang and Courier will discover their first-round opponents at today's draw, which will be held after the completion of qualifying matches. And it was the name of Chang that lit up the qualifying event at Victoria Park yesterday with another Chinese-American player on the brink of a main-draw place. Albert Chang, a 22-year-old American of Taiwanese origin, beat third seed Daniel Vacek 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 to stand just one match away from winning one of the four main-draw places. He now plays Martin Laurendeau, who knocked out South African Gary Muller in the final qualifying match. But there was no such glory for yet another Chang - Carl, elder brother and coach of Michael - who was narrowly beaten in the first round of the qualifiers. He lost 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-3) to Britain's Chris Bailey, who went on to beat Kenny Thorne 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Carl earned a wild card into the qualifiers after Hongkong's Sven Koehler failed to return in time from a junior tournament in Tokyo. Bailey now meets Daniel Nestor for a main draw place. Former Hongkong Open finalist Alex Antonitsch meets Australian Jason Stoltenberg for a main-draw place while American Robbie Weiss plays Jonas Bjorkman. Hongkong's two representatives were both knocked out in the first round. Thorsten Poelzl went down 6-4, 6-1 to Peter Nyborg and Melvin Tong was beaten 6-3, 6-0 by Patrick Baur.