Serving up a game plan

Serving up a game plan

Junior tennis champ Marco Leung was not going to let a stretch of water stop him being a better player

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Marco Leung travelled for many hours between Hong Kong and Macau to improve his tennis.
Marco Leung travelled for many hours between Hong Kong and Macau to improve his tennis.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP
If there were a frequent traveller scheme on the Hong Kong-Macau ferry, 18-year-old Marco Leung Ho-tin would have gained many rewards. The Year 12 student from the International School of Macau has been going backwards and forwards between the two cities to pursue his passion for tennis.

Marco started playing tennis at the age of 10. He joined courses organised by the Macau Tennis Association's tennis academy and was soon winning games. Over the past three years, he took most of the local junior tournament titles and became the best junior player in Macau.

But the youngster soon found he was running out of challenges. Compared with Hong Kong, tennis is in an early stage in Macau. The city's Junior Open Tournament was only approved by the International Tennis Federation this year, and the first event was held earlier this month.

This meant Marco did not have much opportunity to meet different players and had less international experience than junior players in Hong Kong and on the mainland. He noticed this difference in skills when he went to Australia.

"About two years ago, I joined a series of junior tournaments in Melbourne, Australia during my summer holiday," he says. "I found there was a big gap between my level and the players there. I told myself I must have more real battles to enhance my skills."

At the beginning of last year, Marco, who was born in Hong Kong, realised that as a Hong Kong identity card holder, he was eligible to enrol in the Hong Kong Junior Tennis Series. He trained in the city at the weekends and started playing in the competition.

However, the series has a very tight schedule, and matches can be played on any day of the week. Players who advance have to play every day or every other day during the tournament.

"I finished my school day at 3pm, so if a match was scheduled at 5pm at Victoria Park Tennis Centre on Hong Kong Island, I had to leave school at least an hour earlier to catch the 3pm ferry," Marco says. "And I had to return to Macau on the same day as I had school on the following day.

"Sometimes after playing a night match, I wouldn't get home until 1am or 2am. I was really exhausted."

But Marco did not let this get him down and treasured his opportunities. He took part in eight competitions in the series over the past two years and his best result was making the boys' singles semi-final.

"I had hundreds of ferry journeys and they were time consuming and costly," Marco says. "But I am always hungry to learn new tennis skills and I really improved a lot because of my junior series matches. So it was all worthwhile."

In the first Macau ITF Junior Championship held from December 3-8, Marco partnered Hong Kong's Jack Wong Hong-kit in the boys' doubles and made it to the quarter-final. Marco, who participated in six ITF tournaments this year, is ranked 2,283 on the ITF's junior boys' rankings.

Marco has now ended his junior career. But his tennis dream is still alive. "I am the number 2 player in the local senior rankings and I will do my best to play for Macau in the upcoming East Asian Games in Tianjin," he says. "I am determined to be an outstanding amateur player and start a coaching career when I graduate [from university]."

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