‘I will faint from shock’: Hong Kong talent Claudia Ng on the prospect of playing against her idols
Teenager is in the qualifying draw for the upcoming Hong Kong Tennis Open, but struggles to imagine how she would handle facing one of her heroes
At one end of the spectrum there’s icon of the women’s game and seven-time grand slam champion Venus Williams. A firm fan favourite in Hong Kong who will return to Victoria Park, a preferred destination of hers for over a decade, in search of a 50th career singles title.
And at the other end is local talent Claudia Ng Hei-ching, a junior player who turned 16 just last month and is breathless at the prospect of making her WTA debut at the upcoming Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open.
‘Breathless’ is an understatement when describing her excitement at the thought of just meeting – not playing – one of the glut of top stars that tournament organisers have managed to attract for this year’s edition.
“I would probably faint from shock,” gushed Ng when asked how she would react to facing the likes of world No 1 Angelique Kerber or US Open semi-finalist Caroline Wozniacki. “I think I’d just say, ‘I’m a big fan of yours!’
“Really, not only to get to watch them – it’s not a common thing that you can watch these players live – but to play against them would be such an honour!”
In truth, the bubbly youngster has a long road to traverse before she gets to face the likes of Williams et al.
Ng will begin her Hong Kong Open at the first stage of qualifiers on October 8 and will need to far exceed expectations to win two matches and make the opening round of the tournament proper.
“First, I have to get into the main draw which will be pretty hard itself,” Ng said. “Normally the draw comes out the night before, so I’ll be waiting that night to find out who I will play.”
The youngster is at the start of her career but has already enjoyed the taste of success. She and playing partner Venia Yeung secured the bronze medal at the 1st National Youth Games in Fujian last October, a feat she describes as a career highlight so far.
“That was a really great achievement for us,” says Ng. “It was really exciting to represent Hong Kong at such a big event. We were just thrilled to be there, but to get a result like that it made us want to improve even more and achieve even more.”
Ng also had to better a field of 15 rivals to secure victory at the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis National Championship and claim the qualifying wild card for the Open.
Still a full-time student at the Australian International School, how does she manage to balance the demands of her education and her training? “I barely manage it!” she says. “I stay up quite late to study. I can’t procrastinate!
“A lot of the time when people are going out on the weekend, I have to be training and studying, which is a good thing because I get time to catch up and improve without falling behind.”
Ng says she wants to earn a sporting scholarship to play and study abroad, but will need to break into the top 150 in the junior ranks to make that a reality. Her present combined ranking sees her at number 352 in the world.
Currently, she’s being put through her paces in an intense six-week training programme that sees her practising for three hours a day working mostly on fitness and technique. It’s gruelling, she says, but worth the hard work.
“I think after this training block I will improve enough to be able to boost my ranking,” she says
And what about the pressure of being a home starlet playing in a major WTA event in her home city?
“I’ve only played at Victoria Park with one or two people watching like my dad or some of my friends,” she says. “I’ve never played in front of a crowd.”
“I think that so many people cheering for me will ease the pressure a bit. I’m just a qualifying wildcard and it’s my first time playing – I could well be the youngest player there – so really there’s nothing to lose.”
She already seems to have grasped the need for a balance between hard work and enjoyment of her sport.