THE Kingdom’s 16-years-and-under tennis team came away from a memorable 2019 Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas pre-qualifying tournament in Colombo, Sri Lanka with pride very much intact and high hopes for the future, after improving on their 2016 showing.
Following losses to Pacific Oceania and Turkmenistan in the round-robin pool, Cambodia were placed in a back-draw with the other teams that had placed third or fourth in their respective pools.
Facing Saudi Arabia on Friday, singles No2 Chhieu Chaya scored a victory for the Kingdom defeating Sulaiman Almusfer 6-3, 2-6 and 10-4 in the 10-point tie-break.
Following in similar fashion, No1 singles player Sam Davith saw off Mohammed Saadeddin 6-4, 4-6, and 10-7 in the 10-pointer to clinch the match after the singles play.
In the dead doubles rubber, the Kingdom’s Nel Samnang partnered Davith to post a 6-2, 6-3 victory and sweep the tie 3-0.
That took Cambodia into the finals of the back-draw on Saturday, where they battled Bangladesh for a ninth-place finish among the 13 competing teams.
Cambodia’s captain, national Juniors coach Long Chomnith, sent in Davith for the No2 singles role and Davith duly took care of business, beating Bangladesh’s Mohammad Forhad Islam 6-1, 6-3.
Samnang then entered as Cambodia’s No1 but lost in somewhat of a hurry to Mohammad Rakib Hossain 6-1, 6-1.
With the match tied at 1-1, it came down to the deciding doubles rubber, but Bangladesh walked away with an easy victory after a superb doubles performance by Hossain and Islam.
Nevertheless, Tennis Cambodia secretary-general Tep Rithivit was delighted with his charges and took nothing but positives from the performances and the experience gained.
“Instead of the ninth-place finish we were so close to achieving, in the end we were 10th of the 13 countries overall.
“In only our second Junior Davis Cup appearance in our short tennis history, I am not at all disappointed, but very proud of our team for going to Sri Lanka and placing higher than in our debut year in 2016.
“I hope they can take away from this event a sense of what it feels like and what it means to represent your country in competition, as hopefully they will wear our colours in the senior Davis Cup some day in the future,” Rithivit said.
Tennis Cambodia Technical Director Mam Phalkun on Monday detailed to The Post the events of the round-robin stage earlier in the week.
“On March 4, Cambodia faced Pacific Oceania on the opening day of the competition. No2 singles player Davith came up short in a tough two-set match against Manovai Elie that finished 7-6(4), 6-2, before Samnang lost the No1 singles in straight sets to Clement Mainguy 6-0, 6-2. With the match already decided, Chaya and Samnang were defeated 6-1 6-2 by Manovai Elie and Sean Lee.
“Before playing their final round-robin match, we received a rest day on Tuesday, and resumed on Wednesday against Turkmenistan. We changed the line-up to give Chaya a chance at the No2 singles position, but he fell in straight sets to Serdar Vepamyradov 6-2 6-1.
“Davith then entered as our No1 singles player and defeated Allanur Dayanjov 6-3 6-1, giving Cambodia our first win of the competition, and also levelling the tie at 1-1 after singles.
“It all came down to the doubles, where Chaya and Davith teamed up against Vepamyradov and Amir Bashimov. Unfortunately the Cambodian pair lost 6-0, 6-3 to the seemingly more experienced Turkmenistan team to drop out of the pool 0-2,” Phalkun said.
Rithivit emphasised the positive implications of the Sri Lankan trip for Cambodian tennis.
“With one of our goals this year being increased participation, though we suffered losses in Colombo, it doesn’t take anything away from us or the team.
“We were there competing among other tennis nations and participating. This is only the second Junior Davis Cup team that Tennis Cambodia has sent in our entire history so we have to start somewhere, and this is the start.
“We could have sent a couple of stronger players but because their school scheduling clashed with the event in Colombo it just wasn’t possible.
“With that said, we are continuing to give opportunities for our players, two of whom we arranged passports for just for this event so they could compete for their country for the very first time,” Rithivit said.