Chau Hoi Wah and partner Lee Chun Hei have reason to feel buoyant. The Hong Kong Mixed Doubles pair started the year with a semi-final placing at the Victor Far East Malaysia Masters, a month after finishing the last season on a high – making the semi-finals in Dubai. The season saw them capture their first World Superseries title – The Star Australian Open – helping them jump into the top ten of the World Rankings, a position they’ve consistently held over the last six months.
In this interview, Chau talks of her journey from multi-tasking in three disciplines as a rising youngster in Canada, to her evolution as a doubles player and the challenges that she and Lee Chun Hei face.
You had a good season in 2015, with The Star Australian Open triumph being the biggest moment. What do you put down your success to?
Mostly, it’s about how we have improved on our own. We’ve tried our best with training.
The last three years with Lee Chun Hei, I have learned a lot, maybe because I’m now older and more experienced. I’m forced to be more mature, and I have to be more assertive and honest with myself. If I’m criticising only my partner, and not correcting myself, there’s going to be a problem. To be honest with myself is the biggest improvement I’ve made. I can stand back and look at myself and try to correct everything I possibly could before blaming anybody else. My observations during gameplay, it’s more mature than before. This is the big difference.
What would you say is the main difference between you and your opponents in the top 5, like Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei for instance?
They are very special, they have their own specific strategies and form of play. This is what top players are. I enjoy playing against these top players because I can see that each and every opponent has their own specialisation. I try to observe and break through, it’s challenging and fun. I love to be challenged. Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei are top players, but every hero has weaknesses, right? If you can grab on to it and believe in yourself, everything’s possible. I look up to them, I have to learn from them.
At some point can you catch up with them and play on level terms?
Our specialisations are different. If I play my style, and be cautious of their form, they might find it hard against us. We want to keep adding and stabilising our play. I observe and think a lot, because it’s all so fast, it all happens in a split second. If you can’t control well, that will end badly. I’ve been trying to mentally become stronger and more mature. I try to ease off myself and stand back and look at myself and cheer for myself. Just keep it simple, keep my mind simple. Keep out all the unnecessary stuff.
What did qualifying to the Dubai World Superseries Finals mean to you?
I’m satisfied – not because we made the semi-finals, but that we could compete with the top players and show that there’s not much difference between us. We are No.10 in the world, we respect all top players, but we want to gain respect from others as well.
Take us through your journey from Canada to Hong Kong.
I used to play all three categories in Canada. I shifted to Hong Kong after the World Juniors in 2002. I hadn’t planned it.
After high school, my family sent me to China to train. I just wanted to experience high intensity training and see if I still wanted to play. I spent a year in China and I loved it. I happened to meet the Hong Kong head coach at the All China Games. As I was born in Hong Kong, he asked if I wanted to represent Hong Kong. My first answer was no, because I wanted to go home! He asked me to think about it. I said I would talk to my parents. They decided for me, that I should grab the opportunity as it would be professional. At that time, I needed the support, and I didn’t want to spend my family’s money.
I got through the trial, and represented Hong Kong in 2005. The head coach wanted me to play as I had the potential to play doubles. Right after I joined, I focussed on doubles.
How has the journey been as a professional player?
With my second partner, Yohan Hadikusumo, we got into the top 10. Now it’s better (with Lee Chun Hei), we have more titles. My previous partnership was stable, but we didn’t have any big successes. I don’t know what kept me going. I had belief in myself, that I would become a better player. That’s my only goal while staying away from family and friends. I have simple goals, just try my best, go the furthest I can.
Do you miss your family in Canada?
Honestly, of course I miss them a lot. You know the environment in Canada is very comfortable. I’d been living there for many years. I can never adapt to the living style in Hong Kong. My mom and siblings and relatives are in Canada. I visit my family once a year. My family supports me, they never complain. I wouldn’t be here without them.
I’m quite weird in thinking that my junior career ended in Canada. I don’t want to think there’s an option in running back to Canada. I want to respect Canada and Hong Kong as well. I can’t just jump back. It’s not professional. I’ve been full time for ten years now. I’m very clear that this is what I want. I want to be as professional as possible. I want to end my senior career in Hong Kong. I’m loving it and am thankful for what I’ve been through.