Jack Wong Hong-kit did something most young Hongkongers would never even consider: he quit school to pursue his dreams.
“When I was in Form Two, people at the [Hong Kong Tennis Association] asked me to turn full-time but I wasn’t sure,” said the former La Salle College student.
“But a year later I decided I wanted to do something else instead of studying; studying wasn’t really my thing.
“I felt like I had enough talent to make it, and I felt like I really had to focus on my tennis and play as hard as I could.”
The 18-year-old has been a full-time professional tennis player for more than three years, and is Hong Kong’s highest-ranked player.
Looking back, he said the choice to quit school “wasn’t scary at all”.
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“It was just another day for me,” Wong said. “I was so sure I wanted to play; if anything, I felt better once I made my decision.”
By the time he decided to turn pro, Wong had already been playing tennis for most of his life.
“My dad has always loved sports, so he introduced me to tennis and football when I was three years old,” he said. “I was actually a really good football player, too, but when I was around eight or nine I had to make a decision about which sport I wanted to play. In the end, I decided I liked soccer, but I loved tennis, so I just stuck with it.”
Wong said his dad also played a big role in his decision to turn pro. “He’s always been really supportive and felt like I shouldn’t just do what everyone else is doing. He told me: ‘if you really want to do it, do it’,” he explained.
“He also understands how hard it is to make it as a professional athlete in Hong Kong, so he knew I needed all the support I could get.”
His mother wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. “She really wanted me to get a degree at a university, but I said I can always go back and study later, after I finish my pro career. She didn’t like my decision [to quit school] at all, but she still supported me. It’s a lot better now that I’ve actually had quite a successful career.”
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Wong is right – he has had remarkable success for someone of his age. He won the South China Open Tennis Tournament in October and made it to the finals of the Chinese Recreational Club tournament in November. Next up: the Davis Cup on February 3 at Victoria Park.
But his ambitions extend far beyond local tournament success. “My long-term goal is to become the first Hong Kong player to be ranked in the top 100 [worldwide],” he said. “If I can do that, I am confident I can make it to the Olympic Games.
“However, my biggest dream is to play in a Grand Slam.”
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And Wong just keeps getting better. “I still have so much room to improve, and I think I’m getting better every day.”
As the face of Hong Kong’s rapidly growing tennis scene, Wong had some advice for the next generation of young players:
“A lot of Hong Kong people think they have to work hard to be successful, but you have to work efficiently, too,” he said. “Don’t keep doing the same thing; try new training methods and push yourself so you can maximise your potential.
“Don’t just work hard, work smart.”