Former Japanese professional tennis player turned business magnate Mitsuji Konoshita is all set to deliver a sponsorship package that will have a marked impact on Cambodian tennis.
The charismatic president of Cambodia-based GL Finance, who is vigorously pursuing his pet multi-million dollar tennis academy project in the Kingdom, announced on Monday that he will sponsor Japanese Davis Cupper and seasoned circuit player Matsui Toshihide.
The 35-year-old Toshihide, who is currently ranked 251st in doubles and 463rd in singles, will make Cambodia his home away from his Osaka home. He joins two of his compatriots on the circuit, men’s player Katsushi Fukuda and women’s player Yummi Miyakazi, under the sponsorship umbrella of the tennis-savvy Asia Partnership Fund, the GL Finance being its flagship company in Cambodia.
“Many wondered why Matsui Toshihide and why now,” Konoshita said in an exclusive chat with the Post with Toshihide by his side.
“In fact, Toshihide was a fresh faced starter on the pro circuit when I was getting out of it, and we know each other quite well for a long time. But this has nothing to do with that friendship.
“He is an attractive player – still quite a lot of good tennis in him. From an investor’s eye, I think he is an ideal choice and carrying APF’s insignia literally on his sleeves I am sure he will make us proud.
“It is a bit strange that I made up my mind to make this offer to Toshihide after I saw him lose his first round match against a Thai teenager in the Phnom Penh ITF Futures late last year. To me that defeat didn’t define him at all. I saw something different and something positive in the attractive way he played.
“I am very confident that a player of his proven class making Cambodia his base for training will make an impact on the wider tennis community here.”
“What I aspire this year is for Toshihide to break into the top 100 in the doubles ranking. He is tying up with Robert Davis, who lives in Cambodia and is a world renowned coach having worked with so many high-profile players. I am certain this combination will bring great results,” added Konoshita.
Toshihide, who last played Davis Cup for Japan in 2010, expressed his surprise at the offer, especially with it coming after a “disappointing” loss for him.
“Generally sponsors pick winners,” he said.
“It is a great honour to be part of this passionate APF tennis fold. I am going to Kep for a week’s training with Robert Davis and both of us will be heading to a Challengers event in China.”
Though Toshihide is regarded as more of a doubles specialist, he is determined to work on his singles and improve his rankings to the levels where he could make the Grand Slam qualifiers. “Singles and doubles are complimentary to each other, so I will work on both,” he said.
In the coming Chinese Challenger, Toshihide is likely to team up with Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke, but down the line he is looking for a partner who can commit himself to a long-term union.
“After the next week’s event, I will discuss with Robert Davis the road map that he has prepared and finalise circuit plans,” he said.
“Realistically I need to work hard in the next seven to eight months and improve my doubles ranking so that I can make it to the Grand Slams next year. It is a tough challenge but the one I am keen on taking up.”
Toshihide is also confident that he can win the singles title this year at the Japanese National Championships, set for November.
Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit welcomed the move to bring another Japanese star to Cambodian shores.
“Fukuda has been such a great inspiration for our youngsters. I am sure having a player of Matsui Toshihide’s calibre training in Cambodia will benefit our tennis and players on many fronts,” he told the Post.