Cambodia made a spectacular Davis Cup debut late on Monday, winning their Pool B round robin opener against Singapore 3-0 in the 2012 Asia Oceania Group IV series at the Khalifa International Tennis complex in Doha.
With the rest of the tennis world watching with great admiration and awe, Cambodia were given a dream start by Mam Panhara and Bun Kenny.
The two pivots wrapped up the tie with their singles victories in the best of three rubber contest.
Panhara and Kenny then combined to take the doubles for an impressive 3-0 verdict against a side which has had a run of more than 20 years in this competition.
By all accounts it was a tough initiation to this level of tennis for the Cambodian players, but both Mam Panhara and Bun Kenny handled the inevitable jangling of nerves with great gusto.
Panhara had to work little over an hour to subdue Singapore’s 17-year-old Hao Yuan Ng 6-2, 6-4 in the first rubber.
The 25-year-old Cambodian-American right hander quickly built up on a rousing start and never slackened his grip, though his rival made a valiant bid to bounce back in the second set.
With excitement of this win running wild in the Cambodian camp, Bun Kenny was up against Roy Hobbs next.
The first few games saw Kenny make his aggressive intents clear to his rival.
The 22-year-old Cambodian right hander was timing his shots so well that there was hardly anything that Hobbs could do to reverse the trend.
Kenny raced away to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
For the Kingdom’s men, the doubles was a mere formality, but Kenny and Panhara were unwilling to let the momentum slip.
The Singaporean pair of Roy Hobbs and Rohan Kamdar put up a stiff fight in the first set, taking it to a tie-break.
Once the Cambodian pair sealed it with some exquisite net play, the Singaporeans crumbled in the second for a 7-6, 6-3 win for Kenny and Panhara.
The triumphant moment was not lost on both players.
“I am feeling a sense of great relief and triumph,” Panhara told the Post, as Kenny added he was “delighted beyond words”.
Cambodia’s non-playing captain and General Secretary of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, Tep Rithivit, was understandably overwhelmed with emotion.
“Wow! What a way to start the Davis Cup, 3-0,” he said.
“I had the strangest feeling when I walked on court today. It was mixed with an anxiety and a sweet smell of revenge over my dark years of trying to rebuild tennis in Cambodia. I felt confident. I felt that it was our time and nothing can take this away from Cambodia.
“I remembered my first SEA Games in 1997 in Indonesia. We couldn’t even have priority to book our practice court then. We were clearly looked down upon as no good. It’s amazing how things have changed,” he added.
“Now, people want to meet me, congratulate me and look at us in a very different way. Making me feel that they want to be us. They see us so tight together, laughing, relaxed, and there’s a brotherhood that is transpiring within the Cambodian team.”
Cambodia’s head coach Braen Aneiros was all praise for Kenny and Panhara.
The former Panamanian Davis Cupper, who has been coaching the Cambodian team for the past three years, said both had played unbelievably well in singles and were equally good in doubles given the fact that they had never played together in a competition before.
Cambodia were to cross swords late last night with hosts Qatar, who defeated Myanmar 2-1 in another Pool B tie on Monday.
Myanmar will be up against Jordan next.
Ali Mutawa gave Qatar a 1-0 lead, defeating Myanmar’s Nge Hnauang in the opening singles 6-2, 6-3.
Myanmar levelled the rubber-score when Phyo Min Thar wore down Mousa Shanan Zayed 2-6, 7-5, 6-3.
But the Qatar’s pair of Ali Mutawa and Mousa Shanan Zayed defeated Nge Hnauang and Min Min 7-6, 7-6 to clinch the tie.
In Pool A, Turkmenistan defeated Bahrain 3-0 while Saudi Arabia proved too good for Iraq 3-0.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]