Contrasting styles and diverse attributes make Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan an odd pair on the tennis court. But what unites them is the single-minded devotion to raising the Kingdom’s profile on an international stage.
They could not have hoped for a better opportunity to accomplish their mission than at the two back-to-back Men’s Futures events to be played on courts that they know like the back of their hands.
Both Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan figure in the main draw next week as wild cards and carry the aspirations of Cambodian tennis with them.
“The weight of expectation is quite huge on them, and we have to see how well they shoulder it,” National head coach Braen Aneiros told The Post yesterday morning after a practice session at the National Training Centre.
“Both have been working very hard on court and both have more muscle on their games,” added Aneiros.
“They are far more confident than they were before and it is a question of producing their best on a given day.”
However, the coach recognised the high standard of the field that will be attracted for the two US$15,000 events.
“It is a tough bunch to deal with and they know that. It is not easy for someone outside of the 1,000 rankings like Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan to beat one within that. But both are capable of causing flutters.”
The coach noted the pros and cons of playing at home.
“The home advantage could work in different ways for Bun Kenny and Tan Nysan. Kenny puts a lot of pressure on himself quite often, especially when he is surrounded by an expectant home crowd. He is the sort of a guy who is more relaxed when there is less attention on him, and he also gets thoughtful on the calibre of his opponents.
“Nysan on the other hand loves attention and he absolutely knows no pressure.”
Bun Kenny, who picked up his first ATP point a couple of months ago in Laos, admitted that he gets a bit edgy especially at the start of a match, but is working hard to get over it. “With Braen and Nysan helping me along I think I can work this problem out,” he said.
“I am hitting much better now and Nysan as a sparring partner has been a great inspiration. I can feel that change since I started knocking with him nearly a month ago.
Tan Nysan, meanwhile, exerted his trademark confidence ahead of his first return to competitive tennis since March of last year.
“I am ready for it. I have never felt better with myself and my game,” he said.
“It has taken me a while to get back to shape and regain my touch after nursing an ankle injury for months. I am happy with the way things are right now.”
Nysan’s flamboyance goes well with his known aggression on court to make him a fearless opponent. His typical robust approach and disregard for the reputation of his opponents has earned him plaudits at the two previous SEA Games held in Thailand and Laos. Against all odds and expectation, Nysan netted a bronze medal at each tournament.
“Nysan was a revelation then; he is our ray of hope now,” said Tennis Federation of Cambodia secretary General Tep Rithivit.
“It is as much their [Nysan and Kenny’s] best chance as it is ours to make a mark on the international stage.”
It will come as a relief to both local stars that they will go directly into the Main draw rather than face the rigours of qualifying rounds.
“Here in the main draw they know that they have to win just one match to pick up a [world ranking] point, but they need to win three if they have to go through the qualifiers, and they are never easy,” said coach Aneiros.
The countdown for the two US$15,000 events has already begun, and by 8:30pm Cambodian time today the list of direct entries for the main draw will be finalised at the London headquarters of the International Tennis Federation.
The first round of the qualifiers will be played on Sunday with the eight qualifiers to be identified the following day. The first round of the main draw will be spread over Monday and Tuesday.