For one passionate tennis veteran in Phnom Penh, the ongoing ITF Men’s Futures is a throwback to his own balmy playing days in the late ’60s and early ’70s.
“It is just like the old times – there were so many foreigners playing tennis those days in the city. It reminds me of my playing time,” said 65-year-old Yi Sarun after spending the best part of Tuesday’s morning session watching national team players Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan in action.
Over the last ten days, the most active tennis player of his age in the Kingdom has been a regular visitor to the National Training Centre, often taking a vantage point behind the fencing to keenly watch the unfolding drama on court.
“I am happy that tennis is growing so big in Cambodia,” he added. “It is so good to see so many players from so many different countries coming here.”
A few players who got wind of Yi Sarun’s amazing survival story and his indomitable spirit, were very keen on getting to know him better.
“For us language was a barrier. We could not get down to a conversation with him. But from what we have heard about him, it is simply sensational,” said India’s Vishnu Vardhan.
What is so striking about Yi Sarun is his combat readiness, so to speak. A tennis kit almost always hangs over his drooping shoulder, and shorts and shoes give a clear impression that he is wiling to get on court at a minute’s notice. That image of his has always belied his age and continues even to this day to baffle those who share playing time with him.
Quite literally, Yi Sarun is a living example of someone who has made the journey from Killing Fields to tennis courts as one of just three to escape the fate of nearly 40 tennis players at the time. Even as a spectator Yi Sarun is bringing a sentimental touch to Cambodian tennis’ historic moment.