Regardless of where Hong Kong men's team finish in the playoffs for fifth to eighth place at the World Team Championships, they will return to the SAR with a precious commodity, in the form of Leung Chu-yan who, along with claiming some prized scalps, has demonstrated a grit and determination that suggests he is ready to emerge as a dominant singles player. Ranked 46th in the world at the start of the event, Leung this week has defeated Taiwan's world number four Chuan Chih-yuan, Belgium's number 19 Jean-Michel Saive and Sweden's world number 25 Jens Lundqvist, but equally impressive have been the manner of his defeats. Except for his latest losses in the final group match, against Germany's Christian Suss and Zoltan Fejer-Konnerth and versus Austria's Robert Gardos in the first of the play-off matches, when fatigue began to take its toll, the 24-year-old has simply refused to lie down. Taiwan's Chiang Peng-lung, ranked 14th, and Sweden's world number 23 Jorgen Persson can both testify to that from their hard-fought 3-2 victories over Leung that, if table tennis were a contact sport, would have left the combatants battered and bloodied beyond all recognition. 'His heart and his will have improved in tight situations. He refuses to go away. I think he's gone up a notch here definitely, not only technically, but mentally,' enthused Tony Yue Kwok-leung, the chairman of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association. 'He's learned not to be so nervous in those tight situations. He's putting more thinking into it, rather than being driven by emotions. He's grown up too. He's more concentrated, more dedicated to training. He's coming of age. He's maturing.' Rated third behind Ko Lai-chak and Cheung Yuk among Hong Kong's players Leung, who unlike most of the other mainland players representing Hong Kong came to the SAR with his family from Guangdong as a 16-year-old rather than being imported for his talents, has emerged as the anchor of the team. His iron will has been the reason why Hong Kong's group wins, over Belgium and Russia, were 3-0 runaways, and their defeats, against Taiwan, Sweden and Germany, were all by the narrowest 3-2 margin. 'In the worst situations I feel I can handle the ball very clearly. That's a big improvement for me. I'm very satisfied with that,' said Leung. 'Before the match I will think carefully about what I will do in the worst possible circumstances. Before I would have a bad feeling if I missed a point or a big chance in a match. Now I feel very positive. Before I would let those moments affect the whole match. Now I'm less emotional.' In explaining the step up in his performances Leung at no point mentions the technical or skill aspects of the game, proof that the emphasis on the mental aspects that have been developed under Hong Kong Sports Institute psychologist Si Gangyan are paying dividends. 'Mentally I am more mature,' Leung continued. 'I always feel like I can beat my opponent. That is a big difference. Before I wasn't so focused. Now I really concentrate. I think of nothing else but how to beat the other guy.' That approach has worked. Against Russia's Fedor Kuzmin, a player rated fractionally below him in the world, he found himself in a battle of inches, a match where one bounce here and there threatened to be decisive. In the third game Leung recovered from 4-9 down to win and then saved two match points and finally capitalised on his fourth chance to seal the encounter 15-13 in the fifth game. 'During the crucial points he has hung in there,' Yue pointed out. 'His body language has changed. He's really positive. The really good players don't lose composure when they're losing 2-0. The old Leung Chu-yan would crumble. He's steady now, more composed.'