At the age of 23, Eudice Chong is at the top of her game—quite literally. The Hong Kong tennis player became Hong Kong’s top female player and the world’s 378th in May 2019, according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), and is working on rising even higher up the ranks in 2020.
Not far behind is Cody Wong, another bright young Hong Kong tennis star to keep an eye on. At only 17 years of age, she’s already broken records by being the first player from Hong Kong in the last 36 years to reach the last sixteen at Junior Wimbledon last year.
Playing professional tennis is not just an exhilarating career—it’s also extremely demanding for these two top athletes with gruelling training sessions and tireless travels. We caught up with Eudice and Cody to find out what they love most about playing professional tennis, how they stay fit and injury-free on the road and their ambitious goals for 2020.
When did you start playing tennis, and why?
Eudice Chong (EC): I was probably just one when I first picked up a tennis racket (because my parents love playing tennis recreationally), but I had my first tennis lesson when I was seven.
Cody Wong (CW): I started playing tennis when I was three, when both my father and brother (Jack Wong) were playing then. I remember being pushed around in my buggy by my mum here and there just to watch my brother train or play in tournaments. After a while, I started playing too.
What do you love most about the sport?
EC: I love tennis because it gives me the opportunity to travel a lot, which allows me to experience different cultures and meet new people. Tennis also pushes me mentally to get better each day because it is such a taxing sport, but through hard work, the results always come through.
CW: I love tennis because it is a multi-dimensional sport that it isn’t just about (doing) one thing. It is also an individual sport and you are out there on your own, so it teaches me to be independent and think for myself. I learn a lot from playing tennis.
What other sports do you do?
EC: I used to swim as well as play tennis, but not anymore. Now, swimming is more of a recovery activity from tennis, for me.
CW: I’m quite good at sports like badminton, table tennis, running, and volleyball, but I don’t really do much of them anymore (only sometimes with friends, recreationally.)
How do you stay fit throughout the season?
EC: My daily routine in 2019 included three hours on the court and two hours in the gym, either doing cardio or lifting weights. For me, what made a big difference this year was cardio, as tennis requires you to be able to maintain your (physical) level for a long period of time.
CW: Apart from the on-court training, hitting the gym is important for me to build and keep my physical strength at a decent level. I work on my shoulders, core and leg muscles a lot, but for tennis players, it’s important to work all the muscles in your body.
How have you improved physically over the last year?
EC: I’ve improved my upper body strength and core over the past year, which allows me to withstand long matches. I credit this to spending more time at the gym to work on my upper body, whereas in the past I had focused more on my lower body.
CW: I was definitely a lot less injured this season thanks to an improvement of my physique—getting stronger naturally leads to less injuries. I am also a beneficiary of the EFG HKTA Tour Team programme, which offers me a travelling physio when I travel overseas for tournaments. The physio helps me with recovery and keeps me strong.
What does it take (physically) to play tennis at your standard, being the top tennis players in Hong Kong?
EC: To play at the level I am at now requires consistency—you can’t have too many ups and downs, and a lot of that comes with recovery and strength training. With recovery, a travelling physio definitely makes a huge difference and as an EFG HKTA Tour Team beneficiary like Cody, I have been able to benefit from that.
CW: Movement and quick reactions are very important, especially since I am not a tall person, so I have to make sure that I’m quicker and faster than my opponents who are more often than not, bigger in stature than I am and physically stronger.
How do you prevent injuries?
EC: Definitely by doing a lot of pre-hab, focusing on mobility and the muscles of your body. Also, if you are working hard on lifting heavier and feel a small tweak, be sure to stop and take care of it with ice to stop it from getting worse.
CW: I used to be quite injury-prone, but I have learnt the importance of a good warm up before matches and the need to build muscle strength. This is the key to keeping injuries away.
What kind of diet are you on (if any) and when did you start?
E: I’m not any specific diet, but as an athlete, I do try and take in as much protein as possible because we are spending so much time in the gym and on the court. Protein plays a huge part in helping us recover and maintain energy levels. I also try to eat more carbs before matches to last through long and tough matches without having to compromise my level of tennis.
C: I, too, am not on any particular diet, but sweets are something I have cut down on a lot in the past year, in addition to crisps. In order to keep improving, I have made an effort to cut these out.
What is your go-to cheat meal?
EC: I have a sweet tooth so desserts, ice-cream and cakes.
CW: Like Eudice, I too have a sweet tooth and as mentioned just now, I have made the effort to cut these down. However, if I’m on holiday, or during off-season and have a bit more freedom, it’s the sweet stuff like desserts that I go after.
How do you deal with pressure/stress especially during the games?
EC: During a match, I tend to deal with the pressure by controlling my breathing as much as possible, and by taking a lot of deep breaths. As a routine between points, I fix my strings, calm myself and make sure I am mentally prepared for the next point.
CW: I am still learning about pressure management during matches, but I try to focus on not letting my mind run wild by thinking too much, and take it all one point at a time. Outside of matches, I rely on music to keep myself calm and stress-free.
Who is your inspiration (either in sport or in life)?
EC: In sport, Roger Federer because he is just so graceful on the court and with all his achievements over his career, which is just so inspiring. In life, Michelle Obama because of what she stands for, which is something most women can stand behind. The way she carries herself, both as First Lady and now, is a real motivation for me.
CW: Roger Federer and Simona Halep (a top tennis player from Romania). I love Simona because she has an amazing all-round game, and everything about her is just so balanced.
What are your goals for 2020?
EC: To try and qualify for at least one Grand Slam. I am getting pretty close with my world ranking, but I still have some steps to take. I am hoping to get there at the start of the year, and then to qualify for a Grand Slam in the middle or latter part of the year. Of course, an ultimate goal of mine is to represent Hong Kong at the Olympics. There is still a chance (to qualify for Tokyo 2020), so I am keeping my fingers crossed and will keep working hard at it.
CW: I hope to play (and do well) in all four Junior Grand Slams in 2020 and compete in more Futures tournaments. I won a $15K Futures tournament this year, which has given me a lot of confidence, so I want to build on that, win more, and hopefully get on the WTA Tour in the near future.