Our spirit was very high. This was actually visible even before the games. We had had regular practices every week (except I skipped 3 weeks due to a minor operation) and I could tell that our team was getting stronger towards the tournament. Michael Luk had improved so much on his serves and return serves while Allan also improved on his already excellent blocks. David was practising hard between his tight schedules.
As an unseeded team, we had a favorable draw to be in Group 4. The seed, CCS, who was the first runners-up in 2013 and the 4th in 2014. This was a team that we would have confidence to beat if we were playing up to our level. Our biggest hurdle in this page was LSC in group 1, who was last year’s champion with 2 excellent players, one of them being a powerful young player.
In order to avoid crashing with LSC in the first playoff game, we must beat all teams in our group to advance as number 1 in Group 4. This is exactly what we did. Michael Luk was 2-0 against TTC (1 single and 1 double) without breaking a sweat. Allan was our top winner who went 5-0 (2 singles and 3 doubles) against the 3 teams. David was our Doubles specialist and was also unbeaten with a 2-0 record. I won 3 singles along the way. It was a relatively smooth ride. The tougher matches were the ones against the seeded team CCS. They must have studied our players as they used the best tactics against us. Alfred took the first game from me in the first match using a lot of soft serves, luckily I adjusted in time to beat him 3-1. The key match in this showdown was Allan against Martin, and Allan beat Martin in 3 very close games (11-8, 11-9 and 18-16!!!) When Allan finally closed off the match in the longest deuce of the day, he was so exhausted that he lay flat on the chair right away. However, he took a little rest and partnered with David to win the doubles match to secure our number 1 finish in the round robin. Our team was 9-0 in the round robin.
In the quarter final against SJC, it was also a smooth ride. We beat them 3-0 with ease.
Then it came to the semi-final, we faced probably the best team LSC in the field. We were the under dog but we all knew that we would have a chance to beat them if we played them smartly. On deciding the lineup, we agreed to let me face their strongest player first and have Allan face Uncle, their second best player who also had a high ranking. My strategy against this young guy was not to give him the chance to rally, but used my serves and my forehand to finish the point. This did not work out too well in the first game, as he returned my serves beautifully, short and low. And when I tried to serve to his forehand, he looped it right back. I was down 0-4 in the first game. At his point I told myself that this was alright; he was the stronger player, but I could still win if I calmed down. So I played a more patient game, used my push to attack his backhand while returning his serves. And when he started the rally I tried to use a powerful counter-smash in mid-range to kill his loop. It worked out and I came back to beat him in the first game.
He came back to win the second game. And he was leading 10-7 with serve in the 3rd. Then it came to the turning point of the match. I was brave enough to use a power push to return his serve, eventually winning the rally. Then I used 2 tricky down-spin serves and induced him to hit both into the net. He was so upset and lost his composure and the next 2 points in the deuce which gave me a 2-1 lead. I kept the pressure on in the 4th game and went on to beat him 3-1. This was the best match I played for the day.
Then Allan came and stole the show. He faced Uncle (Daniel) who was also a very good player. However, Uncle was facing a super-blocker in Allan this day who was able to return all his smashes, not once, but twice, three times… The rallies were just amazing and we were all shouting our voices hoarse on the sideline. This was the best match I had seen him played, against a player with such level. He beat Uncle 3-0.
Down 2 sets to none, LSC tried to come back in the doubles game but they were facing our best doubles partners, David and Allan, who played patiently to endure the long pimps from John Keung and the smashes from Uncle. David gave us a scare when he missed a smash in the 3rd game and allowed them to come back to tie the set 2-2. However, he used 2 beautiful smashes to close off the last game to beat them 3-2. If we asked the teams before the games, nobody would have believed it but we beat LSC in straight sets to advance to the final.
In the other page, MSC played very well to beat another strong team NMC to get to the final. The top 2 players of MSC used long pimps very well. We did not have much experience with long pimps which reverses the spin and can really distort the opponent’s form. We were also quite tired as we had to wait 1.5 hours before they finished their schedule on the other page. So I asked the team to have some chocolate and “Cocktail” buns (thanks to Wilfred who had bought these for us) to keep our energy level during the wait.
On the first game, I faced their 2nd best player in the single to whom I lost 0-3 last year. I knew that I could not use a strong spin in my serve as it would come back to haunt me from his long pimps, so I kept using a mild spin in my serves. This worked out well as I was then able to start the rally without worrying too much about the reversed spin. I was also a bit defensive and lifted the ball high as I knew that the smashes from long pimps would be soft and I could return them. This worked out and I was able to beat him 3-0 for the revenge.
David was not that lucky when he faced their best player Sandy. He was confused by the long pimps and could not play his game. He lost 3-0 to Sandy. This was our first loss in the tournament.
In the Doubles match, the MSC team was playing marvellously well, combining a good use of long pimps and a follow-up smash. For once, our doubles partners David and Allan suffered their first loss since 2014 and we were down 1-2 in sets.
This means we had to win both single matches remaining. I got the easier opponent who played well in their match against NMC. However, after enduring the long pimps opponent, I was happy to face a “normal” style player and I took care of the business using my strong spin serves which he returned high and I could follow up with my forehand smash. I beat him 3-0.
Allan had a much tougher opponent in Sandy, who switched between long pimp and normal surface smoothly in his serves. However, Allan was perhaps 120 percent this day as he took the first 2 games almost effortlessly, leading 2-0.
Then Sandy came back in the 3rd game, forcing Allan to be more defensive. He took the 3rd game and cut the lead to 2-1.
This was the deciding match of the day and the pressure was high. Other than our own WYK team members and supporters, everyone in the venue was watching this game on the sideline. Allan displayed his strong endurance and came back with his tactics of serve and smash in the 4th game. This worked out very well and although Sandy gave a strong fight, Allan took the final and deciding match and led our team to the championship. Great job Allan!
Thanks Allan, David and Michael, for your effort in the preparation and the execution in this tournament. We showed our Wah Yan spirit and I am proud of you.
Thanks Wilfred for your rundown and all the supportive work before and during the games. We will not be able to concentrate on the games without your support.
CCS – Cheung Chuk Shan College
LSC – La Salle College
MSC – Munsang College
NMC – New Method College
SJC – St. Joseph’s College
TTC – Tsung Tsin College
WYK – Wah Yan College Kowloon