Ek Chamroeun, just 14, becomes the pride of the Cambodian Tennis Federation after making the men's singles finals, only losing to a Vietnamese 25-year-old.
THE 2009 Cambodian Open Tennis Tournament concluded Sunday in the glorious sunshine at Phnom Penh's Cambodian Country Club (CCC), with top Vietnamese players taking the spoils over their Cambodian counterparts. More than 150 avid spectators, dignitaries and journalists surrounded the main court to watch the men's finals play out in the morning before being entertained by Apsara dancers and viewing a prize-giving ceremony presided over by Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) President Chan Prasidh.
In Sunday morning's final, 14-year-old Cambodian tennis sensation Ek Chamroeun finally succumbed to nerves as he was comprehensively beaten 6-0, 6-2 by Vietnamese semiprofessional Traing Ngoc Tri. The star youngster seemed to crumble under pressure, with the nation's media, including many local TV companies, with the 25-year-old Vietnamese talent storming to victory in an hour and 15 minutes.
"I was rather nervous at first to play in front of such a big crowd," said Chamroeun after the game.
"I was also nervous to play the No 5 Vietnamese player, who is 11 years older than me."
The teenage talent who won the U18 tournament with consummate ease earlier in the week, noted that he thought he had played well, despite the nerves, but respected that his opponent also played well.
"I am not disappointed with the result because I have beaten all the top Cambodian players [during the tournament]," he asserted. "I want to be the Cambodian champion for as long as possible. When people speak about the No 1 Cambodian, I want them to use my name."
Chamroeun stated that Sunday's defeat was a good lesson for him to train harder, and gave him confidence for the future. "I think when I meet him [Traing Ngoc Tri] again, I will beat him," he declared.
Though unsure where his trainer would be sending him next, the 14-year-old expressed his desire to do well in the forthcoming Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup in November and the SEA Games in Laos in December. For his successes in the Cambodian Open, Chamroeun collected US$300 to go with his first-and second-place trophies from the U18 and men's categories.
"What a story!" expressed a breathless TFC General Secretary Tep Rithivit after Sunday's events. "[Chamroeun] behaved himself so well throughout the whole week. He freaked out a little bit in the final, but said to him "Mission Accomplished" for winning the semifinals [Saturday]."
The TFC executive also revealed the extent of problems caused by the weather during the nine-day competition. "We had to battle with thunderstorms ripping through our covers, forcing us to work through the night to have the courts ready for the next day," he said.
Ek Chamroeun had booked his place in the final by means of a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Sok Sambath Saturday, whereas opponent Traing had made his way past Chhit Davin Thursday in a 6-1, 7-5 match.
Saturday evening saw the finals of the men's doubles play out, with Vietnamese pair Huyin JP and Traing Ngoc Tri smashing Cambodian duo Chhit Davin and Thun Tola 6-0, 6-1.
In the women's event, 24-year-old Vietnamese No 2 Noelle Hyunh Mai Hyunh made quick work of her competitors, and went on to breeze through Thursday's final against Cambodian Chheng Srey Pich. Sixteen-year-old Chheng Srey Pich had beaten Cambodian No 1 and younger sister Chheng Chorney, 15, to make the final, but the star Vietnamese player proved simply too much, winning 6-0, 6-0.
To round the day off, TFC President Chan Prasidh announced that plans for construction of three tennis courts on land granted to the federation by the CCC was in motion, with the hope of completion in time for the Tep Khunnah Cup.