Cambodia’s young talent was put through a tough test at the ITF Asia 14 and Under Development Championships (Division 2) in Ho Cho Minh City on Tuesday, and the three players came out with varying degrees of success but were all the wiser for their first international exposure despite exiting early in the singles competition.
Kep’s poster boy Sen Sophon came away with a win in the round of 32 after a first round bye but lost his next match while both Khlang Punlok and Leng Sarinreach were beaten in the first round.
Sophon got off to a confident start against Purevjav Enkh-javkhlan of Mongolia and steadily built on it to record a 4-2,4-1 win. But in the round of 16, Sophon ran into the No2 seed Vo Hoang Hung, who raised local cheer by waltzing to a 4-0, 4-0 win. Despite drawing a blank, the Cambodian engaged his Vietnamese rival in some good exchanges.
First to take to the court was Punlok against Pakistan’s Usman Amin Shafi, who used his big forehands to subdue his rival. Down 3-0 in the second set after being outplayed in the first, Punlok squeezed out two games to tighten the scoreline to 1-4, 2-4.
Meanwhile, Long Sarinreach bowed out of the main draw, beaten 4-1, 4-0 by Sri Lankan Thevan Joseph Perera.
However, Sarinreach quickly put that disappointment behind him and went on to beat Myanmar’s Paing Hein Ko 5-3,5-3 in the first round of the back-draw involving first round losers. Interestingly, Sarinreach partners Paing Hein Ko in the doubles.
With all the three players out of the singles main draw, Cambodia’s sights turn to the consolation bracket, but lively anticipation surrounds today’s doubles action.
“The results do not really matter. What is significant for Tennis Cambodia is the participation of our players in this major event. It shows our sustained efforts in grassroots development is beginning to bear fruit,’’ Tennis Cambodia’s secretary-general Tep Rithivit said.
“Our aim has always been to create a pathway to success for players at all levels. This team is a glorious example of how their tennis counts and not their economic backgrounds,’’ he said.
“The three players who are now in Vietnam represent three different strata of society. Sen Sophon is from an orphanage in Kep, Klang Punlok’s parents are both teachers and are middle income group, Long Sarinreach is from a more privileged family,” Tep Rithivit pointed out.