As the first of the six National Junior Tennis Tournaments planned for the year rolls into action at the National Training Center today, some of the most promising players in both the boys and the girls sections have crossed the under-14 threshold this season and will jump into the under-18 category making it the most competitive draw in the three-day event.
While Sen Sophon and Klang Punlok, part of the Cambodian team that took part in the ITF U14 development championship in Vietnam late last year, remain the key players in that age group, some of last season’s good performers like Tep Timothy, Michael Schipani, Chheang Vannasith and Chen Samphors are now older by a year and will have to fit into the higher bracket.
The depth of the U14 draw will drop dramatically but U18 gets stronger with seasoned players in the group like Sreum Kakada, Chay Chen and Chheang Vannasak having to deal with the new stock. Similar change is expected in the girls section as well though the movement of players from one category to the other is far less.
Highly significant, however, is the case of Hour Sreypov, who has remained unbeaten for nearly a year and a half, waltzing through the under-12s she started with and U14s she also dominated. She has turned 15 and will now move into the U18s.
Fierce rivalry between Hour Sreypov and Daria Rakitina was one of the highlights of 2014. But that will now be a thing of the past since Rakitina has left Cambodia and moved back to Russia.
The girls U18s will also look markedly different this season with the number one ranked player and multiple winner Cheng Channeang preferring a break from tennis. Her absence will leave Ith Leakhena, Meas Thona and Ong Sreypov in the forefront of the battle to contain Hour Sreypov’s impending arrival in this category.
The boys 12-and-under B flight successfully introduced last year has been retained. The second flight allows players who have come of age to compete, but are not quite ready to take on the top players of the group to have their own competitive draw. One of the most notable performances in this group last season was that of Tep Lancelot, who made it all the way to the final on his debut.
Meanwhile, the flight A draw will feature much of the same lot of players as last year.
Once again, Hagar Catering will provide meals for all the players throughout the three-day event, while Coca-Cola will supply water to the 65 players expected to take part in the season opener.