Cambodia will reach the apex of international tennis acclaim in Qatar next week. The Kingdom is all set to make its historic Davis Cup debut on Monday, when the 2012 Asia-Oceania Group IV series opens at the sprawling Khalifa International Tennis and Squash complex, home of both the ATP and WTA tour stops.
Interestingly, the Doha venue has 27 outdoor courts – one more than the total number of tennis courts in the whole of Cambodia. Therein lies the captivating, rise-from-its-own-ashes story of Cambodian tennis.
“Our Mission to Doha, as we have fondly named it, will be the first glorious chapter in a new book,” Tennis Federation of Cambodia secretary- general Tep Rithivit said in an exclusive chat with the Post yesterday.
“This is the grand moment the country has been waiting for all these decades.
“The rebuilding process in the past 15 years has been as challenging as it was painful. Now that long, agonising wait has been made worthwhile.”
As the newest member of the community to join the Davis Cup family, Cambodia will begin Cup life at the bottom of the pyramid in this multi-layered competition, which has a rich history dating back 112 years.
The Doha leg is a mix of 10 teams, including first-timers Cambodia (to read more on the squad members, turn to page 22).
What every team in this group aspires to is one of the two promotional tickets to Group III next year.
This Saturday, a draw will determine the groupings and order of play, but it’s age-old Davis Cup wisdom that there is nothing kind or unkind about the draw.
Every tie is a battle, no matter who the rivals are, and in this compressed format one tough match follows another 24 hours later.
It has been said a million times the world over. In the Cambodian context, it has to be said again – nothing ever prepares you when it comes to Davis Cup.
The beauty of Davis Cup play is its ability to throw up diverse story-lines and pack them with shocks and surprises.
“I am very well aware of this Cup phenomenon. We have done our best with our preparations, and morale is quite high.
“Of course, players may feel butterflies wobbling in their stomachs, but that is what it’s all about – coping with the pressure,” Tep Rithivit, who will lead the Cambodian squad as non-playing captain, said.
Bun Kenny and Mam Panhara will shoulder singles responsibilities but could also figure in the doubles.
Another viable doubles option for Cambodia is to pitch Mam Vetu with either Kenny or Panhara. The Cambodian contests would inevitably revolve round these three players.
The change in time zone could be a wild-card factor for the Kingdom’s men. They will be taking the court about 7:30pm Cambodian time (Doha is four hours behind), a timing they are not used to.
“It takes a bit of adjustment, for sure. But I am confident our players will deal with it,” national team head coach Braen Aneiros, himself a former Davis Cupper for Panama of more than five years, said.
The Cambodian contingent leaves Phnom Penh on Friday for Doha and is scheduled to return home on April 23.
“We are proud to be part of this premier event,” Tep Rithivit said.
“Like everyone else, we are looking for a place in Group III next year. Our Cup ambition has been met, and now it is time for us to turn that into achievement.”
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]