Promoted from Group IV with an unbeaten run in Bahrain earlier this year, Cambodia will be among nine nations competing in the Asia Oceania Group III Davis Cup cycle in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City during the week commencing April 2 next on the outdoor hard courts of the Phu Tho Tennis Club.
Cambodia, who regained Group III status after 2016 relegation in Iran, will join Vietnam, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Malaysia, Qatar and Pacific Oceania in the battle for two promotional slots from the zone to Group II.
Four teams will figure in Pool A and the other five in Pool B with the winners and runners up playing crisscross semifinals in the elevation rounds and four teams at the bottom pushed to the relegation playoffs.
“Its the most consequential cycle for us since we made our debut in Doha five years ago. The team is in good shape and spirits and we have the best chance this year to move up the ladder and as always a step down is never an option”, asserted nonplaying Captain Tep Rithivit who is also the secretary-general of Tennis Cambodia in a chat with The Post.
Barring Malaysia in 2015, Cambodian Cup campaigns have been fought far away from home in venues like Doha, Dubai, Iran and Bahrain with the climate, surface and travel adding to the physical and psychological demands the compressed Davis Cup format imposes on players.
“Travel is quick and easy. Weather is close to what we are used to and the surface is the one all our players are comfortable with. I am very hopeful that these factors will clearly help us to raise our performance level this time and give us an edge in our drive for promotion” said Rithivit, who during his playing career led the Kingdom in SEA Games campaign and has been by the court side in his role as Non Playing Captain since the country’s spectacular debut in Doha five years ago.
“Nothing really prepares you for the shocks and surprises Davis Cup always throws at you. But we will spare no effort to train and prepare as hard as we could. Our performance in Bahrain has doubled my faith in my players and I am eager for that break out win we have been pursuing so hard all these years” said Rithivit, who was at the centre of world attention when he received the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Global Organisation of Distinction award in August.
To work alongside the trio of seasoned Davis Cuppers, Bun Kenny, Mam Phalkun and Long Samneang, Tennis Cambodia will be recalling French-born Cambodian Delton Sophana Kim to the squad after a gap of more than two years.
Delton, then 16, was a fresh face in the Cambodian national side that pitched in for the 2015 Group III campaign in Malaysia as the youngest ever to represent the Kingdom.
Due to personal reasons, Delton returned to Paris soon after. But now the talented youngster who has improved his game skills and ranking by a notch in the intervening years is likely to move in as the second singles players.
With the Davis Cup action happening so close to home, Tennis Cambodia has hit upon a novel idea to organise a weekend package tour for fans eager to support the team and catch the most important segment of the competition.
Here is the last season record of the other eight teams.Jordan: Missed out on a place in Group II for the first time since 1993 after falling 2-0 to Lebanon in the promotional playoff in Sri Lanka.
Kuwait: Fell 1-4 to Indonesia in the relegation playoff to slip down for the first time in five years.
Malaysia: Retained Group III status in Sri Lanka and will compete at this level for the seventh year out of eight.
Syria: Fended off relegation by beating UAE 2-0 in Sri Lanka.
Qatar: After being beaten 2-0 by Sri Lanka, missed out on a place in Group II for the first time since 1999
Saudi Arabia: Promoted to Group III along with Cambodia in Bahrain.
Pacific Oceania: Beat Turkmenistan 2-1 in the relegation playoff in Sri Lanka to remain in Group III.