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Game, Set and Match - the return of the Hong Kong Open

Updated: Nov 6, 2023

The less famous but always popular Hong Kong Tennis Open returned last month after a five-year absence to reward tennis aficionados with some fine on-court action.

When one thinks about professional tennis, the likes of Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows, Roland Garros and Albert Park all tend to spring to mind as famous venues that host renowned international tournaments. However, tennis fans in Hong Kong were delighted last month when competition returned to the island after a five-year absence.

Played on outdoor hard courts at Victoria Park Tennis Stadium, the Hong Kong Open was first played in 1973 before it was disbanded in 2002. It was resurrected in 2014 as a women’s only event on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tour and was awarded the WTA International Tournament of the Year in 2018 before the hiatus set in. As of January next year the tournament will also feature a men’s competition and will be regarded as an ideal warm up ahead of the Australian Open later that month.

The Hong Kong Open, also known as the Prudential Hong Kong Tennis Open as per a major sponsorship agreement, had been postponed for three separate reasons in recent years, robbing locals of the chance to witness high-level professional tennis action in the process; in 2019 it was cancelled due to the largest series of demonstration ever witnessed in Hong Kong as protesters rallied against the government’s introduction of a bill to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in regard to extradition. In 2020 and 2021 it fell victim to COVID-19, and did not feature last year due to concerns regarding the security and wellbeing of tennis player Peng Shuai after her allegations of sexual assault against Chinese Communist Party leader Zhang Gaoli.

This year’s tournament was held between October 9 – 15 at the usual venue of Victoria Park Tennis Stadium with a total prize pot of US$259,303 up for grabs. Initially it seemed the returning tournament was doomed after Typhoon Koinu wiped out the whole first day of competition. However, once the weather abated, the crowds returned in their numbers and were rewarded with some dramatic on-court action.

‘First One To Punch’

Canadian Leylah Fernandez, ranked number 35 in the world at time of press, won the singles competition after defeating the Czech Republic’s 46th-ranked Kateřina Siniaková 3–6, 6–4, 6–4 in a thrilling final. Fernandez had previously been ranked as high as 13 in the world when, as a 19-year-old, she finished runner-up at the 2021 US Open to fellow teenager Emma Raducanu, defeating three top-5 players en route to the final, including defending champion Naomi Osaka.

It was the first title in 19 months for the 21-year-old Fernandez, who is half Filipina, against a tough opponent who has seven doubles grand slam titles under her belt. After losing the first set, Fernandez dug deep to analyse herself and her game, before unleashing a foul-mouthed inner monologue tirade in an attempt to kick-start her performance. “I was glad I was very honest with myself, and said ‘a battle is gonna happen, let’s be the first one to punch - if she punches me once, I punch her twice’,” she explained after the match.

“I just used that mentality to push myself through the finish line. That’s the mentality of any professional in sports. You don’t want to be the one on the defence... It’s always a battle that way. My coach - my dad - has always said that ‘a fight is going to happen, be the first one to punch’.” The tactic worked as the 21-year-old went on to claim the next two sets, the title and US$35,000 in prize money.

In the doubles competition China’s Tang Qianhui and Tsao Chia-yi of Taiwan defeated Georgia’s Oksana Kalashnikova and Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus in a fiercely contested 7–5, 1–6, [11–9] final.

Revered professional sports photographer and friend of Brilliant-Online Andy Cheung was courtside to snap the action, using his distinct style to capture some fantastic shots which we have included in this story. Andy was also profiled in last month’s edition of Brilliant-Online, sharing his brilliant and inspiring story with us which you can read here.

Read more stories about Andy's photography.

Singles winner Leylah Fernandez (right) and runner-up Kateřina Siniaková. Photo- Arck Photography & Images | Brilliant-Online
Singles winner Leylah Fernandez (right) and runner-up Kateřina Siniaková. Photo: Arck Photography & Images


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