Cambodia missed the kick at the start of their 2013 Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group III campaign, going down 3-0 to Vietnam in the Group B opener at Dubai’s Aviation Tennis Club late on Wednesday evening.
Mam Phalkun and Bun Kenny lost their singles rubbers in straight sets while Phalkun and his brother Panhara were listless in the doubles, which had no direct bearing on the final outcome of the tie.
“It is disappointing but it is not the end. I am confident our players will pull up their socks and fight on,” Cambodia’s non-playing captain Tep Rithivit told the Post.
“We meet UAE and Pacific Oceania in the next two ties and we can turn things around.”
Meanwhile in another Group B contest, hosts United Arab Emirates, who earned promotion from Group IV like Cambodia in the Doha round last year, ruffled a few feathers by beating second-seeded Pacific Oceania 2-1. The results from Group A went on predictable lines with top-seeded Hong Kong taking in their stride Oman 2-1 while Malaysia ran out victors over Iran by a similar margin.
Cambodia pitched in Mam Phalkun for his Cup debut in the first singles rubber ahead of Panhara, who had won all his five singles matches last year.
When he strode out to meet Vietnam’s Hoang Thien Nguyen, Phalkun, who replaced his youngest brother Vetu in the Doha squad, it was the first time a third sibling had represented a country – and by doing so he made Davis Cup history.
But the big moment simply didn’t translate itself into something tangible on court as the right hander lost the first two games while fending off the initial blues.
Once he began to hit the stride and calm his nerves, Phalkun managed to sneak into a 3-2 lead, serving out the fifth game to love.
But then he hit the buffers, dropping the next four games to surrender the first set.
The second set followed similar patterns. After being 2-0 down and trading a break with his rival, Phalkun drew up to 2-3, with deuce called no less than six times during that tense fifth game.
That gutsy revival was only brief as Nguyen used the power of his forehand to regain the initiative and wrap up the match 6-3, 6-4 to give Vietnam a crucial 1-0 advantage.
The pressure was clearly on Cambodia’s No 1 Bun Kenny when he faced his Vietnamese counterpart Minh Quan Do in a do-or-die battle.
The 23-year-old right hander, who spearheaded Cambodia’s Group IV promotion bid last year, has had a few niggles to deal with on his right shoulder in the last few weeks.
He was seemingly comfortable serving out his opening game, but a couple of double faults and some good returns from his rival down the road, saw Kenny give away three games in a row, a setback he never quite recovered from.
An early break of Kenny serve gave Do a 2-0 headway in the second. But the middle phase of the second set threw up some tense moments for both players as Kenny edged closer to 3-4.
Then came a strange twist. Kenny calling out for injury time to assess a possible muscle pull in his calf.
He came out of that short break well enough to alter the course and draw level at 5-5. That was the closest the Vietnamese No 1 allowed Kenny to get, reeling off the next two games to polish off the tie at 6-2, 7-5.
The Mam brothers took the court for the inconsequential doubles with a rather heavy heart and it clearly showed in quick time.
The Vietnamese pair of Minh Tuan Pham and Quoc-Khanh Le made short work of the Cambodian duo winning 6-2, 6-2 to complete a convincing 3-0 shutout for Vietnam.