National team coach Braen Aneiros (R) talks to his players (L to R) Mam Phalkum, Bun Kenny, Long Samneang and Mam Panhara during a practice session at the National Training Centre on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post
The Cambodian national team players are going through a slew of emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety through hope ahead of next week’s NagaWorld Cambodia ITF Futures tournament as big time tennis returns to the National Training Centre after a gap of nearly 20 months.
The US$10,000 Cambodian F1, wholly sponsored by entertainment and gaming sector pioneers in Indochina NagaWorld, is the first of the three back-to-back men’s circuit events the Tennis Federation of Cambodia will be hosting over the coming three weeks.
The TFC made it to the ITF’s annual tour calendar in early 2011 to all-round appreciation after organising two consecutive $15,000 Futures events.
“Naturally our national players Bun Kenny, Mam Panhara, his elder brother Mam Phalkum and youngest of them all Long Samneang are excited. At the same time they are a bit anxious too about how well the next three weeks will turn out,” national team head coach and the Futures Series Tournament Director Braen Aneiros told the Post yesterday.
“The players realise that playing at home lifts their spirits up but it could also mean pressure to perform well and the best way to prepare for this is to train hard, which is what all of them have been doing for weeks now,” added the coach, who is a former Panamanian Davis Cupper and circuit player.
It has been a very fruitful year for Bun Kenny so far. The 21-year-old right hander spearheaded Cambodia’s triumphant Davis Cup Group IV campaign in Doha during April, winning all of his five singles rubbers.
Away on the Futures circuit in India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, China and Indonesia, Kenny has picked up five ATP points in more than a dozen events over the last eight months to take his total tally to nine. In the bargain, he has got closer to the 1,000 ranking mark, climbing up nearly 300 places. His level of assurance on court and consistency have never been higher.
“He has been training hard. He is out on the tour for more than two years. I expect him to do well,” said Aneiros.
The coach also offered his take on the newcomer to the Cambodian tennis scene, Mam Phalkun.
“I am impressed by Phalkum’s work ethic. He appears to be in good touch and shape and, as the oldest member of the group at 27, he is a very positive influence on others.”
Phalkum is the eldest of the three Mam siblings based in the United States. His younger brothers Panhara and Vetu were part of Cambodia’s
Davis Cup trip to Qatar, where the team earned promotion to next year’s Group III. Phalkum could not make it then due to his teaching commitments in Oregon but he has now stepped in as a replacement for Vetu, who is now tied up with his own career pursuits.
Mam Panhara is already a well-known name in Cambodian tennis circles. Like Bun Kenny, Panhara was unbeaten at Doha, winning all his singles matches and playing a lead role in a few doubles rubbers as well. He is overcoming his lack of competitive tennis in the last few months through a tough training regimen.
“We do not want to really push Long Samneang at this stage. He is still very young and he can play the qualifiers without feeling the pressure and try to learn as much as he can from this international experience,” said Aneiros.
TFC Secretary-General Tep Rithivit, meanwhile, noted that there is “no better international platform for our players to show their mettle than the three futures events right in our backyard. I fervently hope that our players can make the best of it”.
“I have no doubt in my mind that these events will help shape our own future. That is one strong reason why we are encouraging hundreds of tennis playing kids to take active interest.
“This also is a great window of opportunity for the Cambodian public to get a taste of rapid tennis development taking place.”
Wildcards for this Monday’s 32-player main draw have already been handed out to Bun Kenny and the Mam brothers. Long Samneang has a wildcard passage to the two-round qualifiers beginning tomorrow.
The official draw for the qualifiers is set for today while the main draw is scheduled for 4pm on Sunday.
ITF Silver badge holder Punit Gupta of India, who led the team of officials in 2011, has been retained as the chief tournament supervisor for the entire series. The panel of five chair umpires include four ITF white badgers in Supreeth Kadavigare (India), Razmee Rawi (Malaysia) Herta Shiro (Indonesia) and Petrus Widiyanto (Indonesia).
The fifth member, Vietnam’s Nhan Vo Huynh, is a national umpire. A group of 12 to 15 locals will assist the officials as line judges.
There are some highly talented overseas players in the fray over the next three weeks.
The international cast for Cambodian F1 will only be known when the draw is made on Sunday.
To contact the reporter on this story: H S Manjunath at [email protected]