Top-seeded Huang Liang Chi of Taiwan won the third and final leg of the US$10,000 ITF Cambodian Futures for the GLF Tep Khunnah Open, with a 7-5, 6-4 win over second-seeded Matsui Toshihide of Japan in a highly combative final at the National Tennis Center on Saturday.
The 22-year-old right hander, ranked as high as third in the world during his junior days, notched up his third singles title of the year at this level. The victory might help him make the cut off for next year’s Australian Open qualifiers since the week that has just ended marked the ranking threshold to get into the Melbourne event.
Whether his Grand Slam qualification aims hardened his resolve or not, Huang showed an exceptionally high motivational level to wear down an opponent who kept the fight going to the bitter end.
The Japanese veteran’s appearance in the final itself was a proud moment for the series main sponsors GLF, who has been supporting Toshihide for more than a year. There were scores of GLF employees rooting for their sporting ambassador, but Huang raised his game at critical phases to ensure that this sustained vocal support would not come in the way of his mission.
As was to be expected, it was a classic battle between the youthful exuberance of Huang and years of circuit experience that Toshihide carried with him.
The first 10 games of the first set were split evenly on the strength of their serves. But serving 30-love in the 11th game, Toshihide was the first to show signs of wavering concentration, and Huang pounced on it.
The Taiwanese star took the next three points to set up that vital break, and this eventful game ended in the most bizarre fashion Toshihide could have imagined. The Japanese right hander moved up the court, poised for a put away but at the last possible moment chose to leave the ball alone, possibly judging it to go long. To his distress, the ball fell in and being presented with that break, Huang served out the first set.
Toshihide dropped his serve in the first game of the second set to give the top seed an early advantage and Huang never quite slackened his grip thereafter, though he managed to survive at least three break-back points.
GLF Chairman Mitsuji Konoshita announced during the prize ceremony that his company was proud that Toshihide had made it this far and had played a huge part in making it an exciting final. He also congratulated the winner Huang for playing some excellent tennis.
In the semi-final action on Friday, Huang disposed off fellow countryman Yi Chu Huan 7-6, 6-1, while Toshihide needed three sets to down compatriot Ito Yuichi 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.
After his singles advance to the last four, Huang partnered China’s Ouyang Bowen to lift the doubles title. The second-seeded pair beat the Korean combine of Lee Jea Moon and Hong Chung 6-4, 6-3 in the final.