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5 Febuary, 2015

Seeds Struggle in Opening Rounds of $50K ATP Challenger

The final week of the professional circuit is underway at Victoria Park, as Hong Kong plays host to a $50K ATP Challenger event. This is the highest level of men's professional tennis which the SAR has seen since the Hong Kong Open was last played in 2002. Back then it was Juan Carlos Ferrero who lifted the trophy after he ousted fellow Spaniard, Carlos Moya in 3 scintillating sets. Whilst in the past Hong Kong has seen legends of the game, this week it is the tours fringe players on display. The draw boasted 2 top 100 players and several hot off the heels of a main draw showing at the Australian Open.

After 3 days of play, the quarter final lineup has been set and with only 3 seeded players remaining, 2nd seeded Tatsumo Ito of Japan is shaping up as the likely title contender. On the opening day, top seeded Ricardas Berankis (LTU), currently sitting at 85th on the ATP pecking order, was stunned by unseeded Indian, Saketh Myneni. Berankis had a dissappointing showing, considering he was a 1st round victor in Melbourne last week. Elsewhere in the draw, Aussie Matt Ebden recovered from a break down in the 1st set against 6th seeded Yuichi Sugita (JPN) before clinching a tight encounter 7-6 (2) 7-5. The former Grand Slam Mixed doubles champion's luck ran out in the next round as he was dismissed by Great Britain's Kyle Edmund in straight sets.

China's number 1 Wu Di, played some great ball to take care of his first round assignment against (4) Jimmy Wang of Taipei. Wu took the opening set, before coughing up the 2nd. He fought back in an entertaining 3rd set to complete the upset with a 6-3 2-6 6-4 scoreline. He too would fall at the next hurdle at the hands of Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) in straight sets 3-6 6-7 (3). Nishioka will next face Niels Dessein of Belgiam, Dessein must be feeling confident as he has already taken care of 2 Japanese players in the draw so far.

Frenchman Jonathan Eysseric continued the trend of opening round upsets. Aussie James Duckworth look flat as he slumped to a 1-6 3-6 defeat. However, like those before him, taking out a seed in the first round was all she wrote for Eysseric, as he was blasted out in the next round by 18 year old South Korean, Chung Hyeon. Chung gave up just 2 games in a dominant 6-1 6-1 result.

Having arguably the easiest section of the draw, 3rd seeded Blaz Kavcic progressed safely to the quarters after defeating a wildcard and then qualifier Gong Mao Xin (CHN) without the loss of a set. The final quarter will pit former top 10 junior Somdev Devvarman (IND) against 2nd seeded Tatsumo Ito of Japan. Devarmann overcame countryman Yukhi Bhambri in 3 sets before ending the hopes of German Philipp Petzschner in the next round. Petzschner, who was ranked as high as 35 in 2009, was forced to reture in the 2nd round encounter with a right shoulder injury.

Ito of Japan faced local hope Andrew Li Hei Yin in the opening round. Li, who was in fine form after taking out the G4 ITF last week, was given a wildcard by organisers. Having never earnt an ATP point, Li could have easily felt out of his depth against a player who has appeared in 9 Grand Slam main draws and owns 9 titles at the Challenger level. However, he look right at home and even opened up an early 4-2 lead. Experience shone through in the end for Ito, has he clawed back 4 straight games to take the first. He would eventually close it out 6-4 7-5, but Li was happy with his efforts.

"I played aggressively today and went for my shots. I'm happy with the way I played and this will do my confidence a world of good," Li said, he added "One important thing I learned today was that I have to work on my serve and I have to toughen up mentally."

Ito easily took care of his 2nd round assignment against qualifier Christopher Rungkat (INA).

In the doubles draw only the Ratiwatana twins from Thailand are still representing the seeded teams. They face wildcards Hsieh Cheng Peng and Yi Chu Huan of Taipei in the semis. The other semi will see a matchup between Indian duo Saketh Myneni and Sanam Singh who have survived 2 3rd set tiebreaks so far and the Australian/Belgian combo of Matt Ebden and Niels Dessein.

Earlier in the draw, 2 local wildcards, Jack Wong Hong Kit paired with Philipp Petzschner (GER), and Andrew Li Hei Yin paired with Kimmy Wang (TPE), were both knocked out in straight sets.

Full draws and results can be found “here”

Written By Justin Trench