The official opening ceremony of the Cambodian Tennis Federation’s National Training Centre Friday was attended by some of the region’s top tennis officials
Minister of Commerce and TFC President Cham Prasidh delivers his address during the opening ceremony Friday. PHOTO SUPPLIED BY TFC
Cambodian tennis reached its latest apex of international acclaim when the newly-built National Training Centre was officially opened with a ceremony held on the courts Friday. Senior Minister of Commerce and President of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) Cham Prasidh presided over the event, which was also attended by Asian Tennis Federation President Anil Khanna, International Tennis Federation (ITF) Development Officer Suresh Menon, and other invited guests from the Asian tennis scene.
There were further celebrations for the TFC, after it was announced that their application for B-Category ITF membership has been approved in principle by the Board of Directors and is likely to be ratified in the next two years, paving the way for Cambodia’s participation in the prestigious international team competition, the Davis Cup.
In his poignant address Friday, Cham Prasidh stated: “Today we have seen the rebirth of Cambodian tennis from its own ashes. We set out on our vision to restore tennis to its glory days of 1960s after decades of turmoil and now I can say with confidence that the TFC is on solid ground.”
“All these years we were on the runway,” he continued. “Now we are on take-off mode and ready to fly. How high that flight takes us will depend on how hard we work. With a dedicated bunch of people around the TFC, the goodwill of the world’s governing body and support from all our sponsors, I am certain Cambodian tennis will reach great heights.”
Recalling how tough it had been in the early years of Cambodia’s tennis revival, the Minister pointed out that the new training centre was “a testimony to the TFC’s relentless pursuit of that grand vision we set out with against all odds.
“I want the world to know that TFC has done everything on its own without support from the parental institutions, and today we are proud of the two SEA Games bronze medals [won by Tan Nysan] and the prospect of joining the Davis Cup,” he expressed. “I can declare with a sense of national pride that Cambodian players are no longer mere participants, they are contenders.”
In his speech, Anil Khanna said his first visit to Cambodia had opened his eyes to its traumatic history and suffering, but judging from what he’d witnessed during his short stay, he was confident the future of Cambodian tennis would go from strength to strength. “I can see a tennis renaissance taking shape,” he said. “Cambodia richly deserves the ATF’s award as the most improved association in Asia.
“It is commendable that a fledgling federation like the TFC has accomplished so many tasks so quickly,’’ he noted, whilst heaping praise on the administrative excellence of TFC Secretary General Tep Rithivit and the steadfast support of President Cham Prasidh.
Anil Khanna also pledged the continued support from both the ATF and ITF, stressing the need for lights for the courts. “I will try to get the necessary finance for the lighting project from the Grand Slam fund,” he assured.
The training centre complex, which features three hardcourts, was constructed at a cost of around US$100,000, and is currently awaiting several structural additions such as a players lounge, media centre and clubhouse. The project has been funded mainly by private sponsors of the TFC’s with a $20,000 contribution from the ITF’s Grand Slam Development Fund.
ITF Development Officer Suresh Menon, who has a longstanding association with the TFC, said the completion of the tennis centre was “a clear indication that [the TFC] is coming of age.”
The London-based tennis official noted that “the B Class membership as such may not bring cheer to the TFC in terms of development funding, but it will enhance its profile and its image.
“In some ways it will help its economy as well. But the most important advantage is that Cambodia will be a voting member of the ITF, which has its own fringe benefits.”
Suresh Menon added that he was pleased with the TFC’s initiative on Mini and Junior Tennis. “The next step would be to go for ITF ranking tournaments and even Men’s Futures [tournaments], apart from seeking ATC U-14 and U-18 tour events.”
He also emphasized the importance of lighting. “It helps players to train into late evenings. Its hard to train during the day; it is so hot and humid here.”
In the day’s opening address, the Secretary General of the TFC Tep Rithivit proclaimed the federation’s intent on gaining regional notoriety once again. “We are determined to carry out to its fruitful end the vision of our President [Chan Prasidh] and restore Cambodian tennis to its balmy days,” he declared. “As part of TFC’s grassroot development initiative, today we have 20 schools and 2,500 children taking part in our mini tennis programme and our aim is to spread tennis to every province in the country.”
The Secretary also commended the generosity of the Cambodian Country Club (CCC), who donated a lease of some land next to their facility for the construction of the National Tennis Centre. “They have given us this dream location in the heart of the city,” enthused Tep Rithivit.
CCC owner Van Sou Ieng said it was his proud privilege to help contribute to the success of the TFC, a sentiment shared by Paul Blanche-Horgan, CEO of local internet provider Ezecom, the federation’s main sponsor.
Offers of further support came flying in during an official luncheon at the CCC which followed the ceremony. Honourary guest Yaakov Ribalsky, President of the Uzbekistan Tennis Federation, announced he would grant two Cambodian players the chance to train with his team during their 20-day training camp in Bangkok next month. “You just send two of your players and we will take care of all their needs,” stated Ribasky, whose team boast two players ranked in the top 50 in the world.
Jeff Moons, owner of Knai Bang Chatt resort in Kep, quickly jumped in with an offer of two return flights for the Cambodian players bound for Thailand. Local engineering company Comin Khmere chairman Dominique Catry then rounded off the benevolence with a pledge to arrange the lighting for the National Tennis Centre.
The TFC issued promotional T-shirts to all invited guests after lunch, which displayed the slogan “From Killing Fields to Tennis Courts” on the front and “Support Tennis Cambodia” on the back. The TFC intend to send a T-shirt to tennis star Roger Federer, who begins his Wimbledon title defence today against Colombia’s Alejandro Falla.