Two Oregon-based Cambodian-American students with good college tennis credentials are likely to get on board the national team ahead of the Kingdom’s historic Davis Cup debut set for April 16 in the Qatari capital, Doha.
If all goes well, 25-year-old Pannhara Mam and his younger brother by a year, Vetu Mam, could well be an answer to the Tennis Federation of Cambodia’s global appeal for help from non-resident Cambodian youngsters in strengthening their team.
Sara Mam has confirmed to the TFC that his sons will arrive in Phnom Penh by the first week of March for a one-month stint with the national team to prove their worth and fight for their places. “It’s a grand surprise and a pleasant one. We at the TFC are excited with this offer,” TFC secretary- general Tep Rithivit told the Post yesterday. “From what we know, both Pannhara and Vetu have been doing well in their university tennis.
“College tennis in America is of good standard, and we expect them to be the kind of players who can shore up our team. We welcome them.”
It all began just a week ago with a simple congratulatory email from Sara Mam to the TFC in the wake of Cambodia winning their first ever team medal in tennis at the recently concluded SEA Games in Indonesia.
While hailing the team for their bronze-medal effort, Sara wondered whether, with the David Cup in sight, the TFC would be interested in recruiting new players for the national team.
He further suggested that if the federation had any such plans, his two sons were very eager to join.
After back-and-forth phone calls and email exchanges, it was agreed by the Mam family and the TFC that Pannhara and Vetu would fly to Phnom Penh at their own cost and go through one month’s training with other members of the national team under head coach Braen Aneiros.
“If we find them as good as their record suggests, then it’s indeed a blessing for the federation. All our worries about finding someone reliable in singles to go with Bun Kenny will be wiped out, and we can hope for a good campaign in Doha,” Tep Rithivit said.
Like thousands of Cambod-ians fearing for their future at the time, Sara Mam and his wife fled the Khmer Rouge reign of terror in the mid-1970s to begin life afresh in the United States, where their three sons were born.
Pannhara played Division I college tennis at the Eastern Washington University from 2006 to 2009, while holding one of the top two positions throughout his four years there.
Although he has no current world ranking, Pannhara was ranked as high as sixth in the Pacific Northwest region at the height of his college tennis career.
Pannhara also played a couple of Futures events in Brazil last year.
In contrast, 24-year-old Vetu has just finished his college career playing Division I tennis at Portland University.