In a landmark year that has seen taekwondo sensation Sorn Seavmey shatter the Rio Olympic qualification ceiling, Cambodia’s Andrea Ka has taken the Kingdom’s women’s tennis to a new high by becoming the first player to win an ITF Futures event, a feat her male national team members have failed to achieve.
The 24-year-old Ka’s astounding success came on Sunday in Portugal, where she won the $10,000 Amarante Ladies Open after outlasting Spain’s Alba Carrillo Marin 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 in a battle of qualifiers.
Her first career singles title followed her maiden success in doubles the previous week in the city of Oeiras in the company of Laetitia Sarrazin of France.
After a somewhat tentative start, the Cambodian right-hander could not hold her serve enough to keep the first set close. But in the second, she kept challenging her Spanish rival right until the tie-breaker, while saving a match point when 5-6 down.
Three points in a row gave her a distinct advantage in the tie-break, which she closed out at 8-6. She grabbed an early initiative in the decider and kept her confidence to shut out the contest.
On her way to the finals, Ka, who led the first Cambodian women’s team in last year’s Singapore SEA Games, pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament by beating third seed Despina Papamichail of Greece, who is ranked 501 on the WTA Tour. Emerging out of a mid-match crisis, Andrea Ka won 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.
Since both Ka and Marin missed the qualifying rounds for the next event in Lisbon due to their Amarante semi-final commitments, the organisers allowed them direct entry into the main draw.
“Two titles in two weeks at this level of competition is an amazing achievement and a big boost for Cambodian women’s tennis,” secretary-general of Tennis Cambodia Tep Rithivit told the Post.
“It is great to have a player getting such good results, and she is someone for young players to look up to.Ka now heads to her next tournament in Lisbon this week with a spring in her step.
Her first reaction after winning the long, drawn out three-setter was to send a note expressing her appreciation for the support she has received from the Federation, its president and Minister of Industries and Handicrafts Cham Prasidh, secretary-general Rithivit and national coach Braen Aneiros.
When the WTA rankings list is announced next Monday, Ka is likely to be just outside the 900 mark. She is the first Cambodian woman to get a WTA ranking, once before she entered university in the United States and again after completing her studies this spring at the University of San Francisco.