Strong suit: Hong Kong’s pair of Jacks trump Iran’s tennis aces as hosts battle to brink of Davis Cup win
Hong Kong can clinch Asia/Oceania Group II first-round tie in Sunday’s doubles after singles triumphs for Anthony Jackie Tang and Jack Wong Hong-kit give home side a 2-0 lead
Hong Kong have one foot in the semi-finals of their Davis Cup group after a clean sweep in Saturday’s singles against Iran – and they may have found a new tennis hero, too.
Jack Wong Hong-kit added the gloss with a 6-2, 6-3 victory in less than an hour under the floodlights on Centre Court at Victoria Park, but it was Anthony Jackie Tang who got the crowd going with a battling opening win.
“Do it for Hong Kong” and “Jackie, Jackie” were the shouts from the stands, and Tang finally obliged after two hours and 22 minutes, taking his fourth match point to beat Shahin Khaledan 7-6 (7-1), 6-4.
“I think I was pretty nervous, it was a bigger crowd than I expected,” he said. “But they were great. Yelling my name, the chanting, it all gave me an extra boost.”
The 19-year-old Columbia University student had only just flown back from the US earlier this week to make his home Davis Cup debut for Hong Kong in their Asia/Oceania Group II first-round tie.
And those watching took the talented teenager to their hearts and over the line against a grinding opponent.
“It really helped me just being able to play in front of a home crowd. They allowed me to win this match,” he said. “I loved it out there, I was smiling so much because the atmosphere was great.
“The way they were cheering and supporting me was really helpful. I want to thank them for being amazing.”
It was likely a career high moment for the economics major, who will return to study as a sophomore in New York after the weekend.
Born to a Shanghainese mother in the Philippines where his Taiwanese father was working, the family moved when Tang was a year old to this city. He attended Hong Kong International School before heading abroad in 2016 to study and compete at NCAA collegiate level, and is mulling over turning professional if his results this summer are up to scratch.
“You learn a lot if you leave Asia – the way American players play is very different,” he said. “There’s a lot to learn from them the way they play, how they fight. It’s more competitive. I was really able to learn stuff and bring it back to the match today.”
Tang stormed through the first-set tiebreaker following a mammoth first set, and raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set as he looked to close out the win.
Khaledan fought back to 4-3 and kept on pushing but Tang was able to get over the line, despite the Iranian team protesting that the winning point was long.
“To be honest I really couldn’t see it,” said Tang, laughing. “I’m just happy they called it in. On another day it could have gone his way.
“It was a really good effort by him in the second set to come back. I thought I almost put it away at 4-1.
“I don’t think I took my foot off the gas, I was just telling myself to focus on every point, not give everything to him. A few points here or there he kinda got lucky and he also played really well.
“He just grinds and goes off your errors, doesn’t have weapons. A previous teammate that played him told me he’s gonna fight for every ball. I was expecting it, and in a position to play long rallies. Thankfully I won a lot of them.”
Wong’s win against Mohsen Hosseinzadeh in just 57 minutes later on made it 2-0 to Hong Kong ahead of Sunday, when Kevin Wong Chun-hun and Brian Yeung Pak-long could wrap up the tie against Anoosha Shahgholi and Ashkan Shokoofi in the doubles.
Should Iran pull back a point, Jack Wong will play Khaledan with Tang on hand to face Hosseinzadeh if it goes to a fifth rubber.
“Our doubles have been playing together for a long time so they are one of the best teams,” said Jack Wong. “If I have to, I’m totally fine to play again, I have good confidence.”