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Kids are key to tennis future

090727_22
Young tennis players get their own back by hitting balls at coaches (front from left to right) Peov Pros, Chhay Panavuth and Chea Peou during the last “drill exercise” of the day Friday at the Cambodian Country Club.

Cambodian Tennis Federation event highlights the promise of the nation's youth - and the sport's progress in the Kingdom.

When 7-year-old Nolane Tep went onto the court at the Cambodia Country Club for the Kid's Day Event this past Friday, little did he know just how important it was for tennis in Cambodia. Friday was a day that marked the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the sport in the Kingdom, which once dominated its regional rivals in the discipline.

Players and coaches often get the credit for wins, and likewise the blame for losses. However, it is at the top, at the executive administration level, where tennis ultimately succeeds or fails.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Cham Prasidh, president of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) and Minister of Commerce, and the enthusiasm and energy of Secretary General Tep Rithivit, tennis is again thriving in Cambodia.

Because of their commitment and the direction that the TFC has demonstrated in the past year, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has granted special balls and model racquets, and is considering a financial grant for coaching assistance to the TFC.

"Cambodia is getting a lot of notice among the region and especially at the ITF," comments Chaiyapak Siriwat, president of the Southeast Asia Tennis Federation. "They are doing all the right things to build a programme that will be a force in the years to come."

The TFC recently contracted Braen Aneiros from Panama as the national coach for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games. Aneiros is working for the Southeast Asia Tennis Federation (SEATF) and also has been coaching Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, the current world No 1-ranked junior girl and reigning Wimbledon junior champion.

"It is a great opportunity to be part of the TFC team," Aneiros said from Bangkok. "It might take a little time, but I am confident that tennis in Cambodia will succeed."

Though the upcoming SEA Games will receive the majority of the press and government support, it is the grass-roots projects like mini-tennis in the schools and communities that provide the base for future champions. By making Kid's Day the focal point of their promotions, the TFC demonstrated that they are committed to investing in the long-term growth of tennis.

For Cambodian kids such as little Tep Nolane, a career in tennis just took a step closer to becoming a reality.

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