At the beginning of this year, local tennis ace Roger Ng Ki-lung felt on top of the world – his junior world singles ranking rose to a career-high 60, and he had just secured a spot in the main draw of the Australian Open Junior Championships, a prestigious Grand Slam tournament for teenage players.
But an unfortunate knee injury caused Roger’s career to nosedive. He was unexpectedly knocked out in the first round of the junior Australian Open, and he was forced to take a break to let his injury heal.
When the 18-year-old first spoke to Young Post at the Outstanding Junior Athlete Awards (Third Quarter) in March, he did not seem as thrilled as the other award recipients. Roger, who was preparing for the HKDSE at the time, said he was facing one of the biggest stumbling blocks in his career. “Things couldn’t be worse. It was such a disappointment to lose in the first round [at the junior Australian Open], when my goal was to get into the top 16 or even the quarter-finals,” he said. “But I was injured, so what could I do?”
Five months later, Roger seems to have put his frustrations behind him and is ready to make a strong comeback. He currently ranks No 184 on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) junior rankings – a significant drop from his career best – but the teenager is confident that he will return to the top 100 soon.
“Although I still need to use tape to support my knees, I’m glad to say that I’m not in pain any more and I have got back to training 20 hours a week,” Roger told Young Post on Thursday.
In addition to making up for lost time on the court, Roger has another mission to accomplish – to study three new elective subjects for next year’s HKDSE. The Diocesan Boys’ School (DBS) graduate was the first student to become a full-time athlete while still studying at DBS, thanks to his headmaster’s love for the sport.
“The school was very supportive of my decision to turn professional three years ago, perhaps partly because my headmaster is a tennis enthusiast, too,” said Roger, with a laugh.
In this year’s HKDSE, Roger only sat the English and mathematics exams, as he was told those were the only subjects required by the American universities which had offered him a four-year sports scholarship. But, as it turned out, he has to take a few more subjects to be admitted, so he will have another crack at it as a private candidate next year.
It sounds like a mission impossible, but Roger is hopeful, knowing that he will receive support from the Hong Kong Sports Institute, which provides tutoring services for student athletes.
“It will be tough, for sure, but I’ve just got to do my best and see what happens,” he said.
Roger is now in a critical stage of his career where he faces a tough transition from being a junior player to a professional.
He believes senior tournaments will require much more stamina, and a more sophisticated playing style. But with hard work and determination, Roger believes he will make the top 200 on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour.
“Senior competitions are a whole new level, so improving my fitness is definitely a priority. I want to enter the ATP’s top 200 in five years, and the only way to make it happen is to train as hard as I can,” he said.