After pulling himself out of deep trouble by saving two match points on the road to splendid second set recovery, Cambodia’s Davis Cup spearhead Bun Kenny stumbled badly in sight of victory to a 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 defeat by stodgy South Korean qualifier Byung Kook Kang in the first round of the $10,000 ITF Cambodian Futures for the GLF Open at the National Tennis Centre yesterday.
With both players showing a marked reluctance for net advances, the three-hour battle was mainly fought from the baseline. The Korean’s unhurried consistency on both flanks far outweighed Kenny’s patchy aggression, even as both endured several tantalising twists and turns in their corners.
“Kenny just didn’t feel his forehands. He didn’t serve as well as he is capable of and errors at critical junctures clearly cost him the match,” Cambodia’s national coach Braen Aneiros, who watched every minute of this long duel, told the Post.
Kenny dropped his first service game to love and Kang, who has a free-flowing style with no aggressive frills, steadily capitalised on this early break to wrap up the first set.
The second followed a similar pattern with Kenny giving away another early break on a platter. But the Cambodian right hander began to dig himself out of the hole midway with a break back that brought him on par at three games all.
Down 6-5, Kenny saved two match points to drive the set to a tie-break. He then went quickly fell behind 4-0, the damage done by two balking forehands, a creaking backhand and an overambitious net rush.
The South Korean seemed well poised to polish off the tie-break when all of a sudden Kenny found second wind and reeled off the next five points, greeting the last of those with a roar that could be heard miles away.
After a couple of shaky points, Kenny finally nailed the tie-break to level the set scores much to Kang’s visible annoyance.
The first sign that the South Korean was beginning to feel a bit weary was when he asked the chair umpire time for medical attention and soon got what he wanted. But back on court, he clearly was in no mood to relent.
Amid mounting tension, Kenny cracked Kang’s serve to take a decisive hold. Kang, serving at 3-5 to stay in the match, held on grimly and Kenny in turn serving at 5-4 for a wrap up was a bundle of errors and ended up paying the ultimate price three games later.
The day began with top seeded Johan Sebastien Tatlot scoring a 6-1, 6-3 win over Cambodia’s Mam Phalkun, who did make the Frenchman earn every point, especially in a well-fought second set.
It was a memorable day for Japan’s 18-year-old Hiroki Horikiri, who won his first ranking point by beating his fellow countryman Katsushi Fukuda, the oldest player in the main draw at 36. Horikiri won the battle of Osaka, the city both are from at 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
As one player watching this match jokingly remarked: “Horikiri must be really lucky his vocal chords are in place. He was letting out a scream every point he won.”
Third seeded Karunuday Singh of India romped through the first set against Sebastien Wagner and then saw the tall German bounce back into the match. The lone Indian in the draw, however, came into his own in the decider to win 6-0, 2-6, 6-4.
Second seeded Robin Kern of Germany, who is the only previous winner of the Cambodian Futures returning to competition this year, blasted out a 6-1, 6-2 win over China’s Xin Gao.
In other first round matches, South Korea’s Young Seok Kim beat Ko Suzuki of Japan 6-3, 6-3, sixth seeded Min Kyu Song of South Korea got past Spain’s Jose Vidal Azorin 6-3, 7-5, while Bowen Quyang of China beat Timur Khabibulin of Kazakhstan 5-7, 7-6, 6-4.