Local tennis fans flocked to the Cambodian Country Club Wednesday night to see the opening matches of the Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup Super Singles
THE 14th annual Tep Khunnah Memorial Tennis Cup changed into top gear Wednesday with the first round of the star-studded Super Singles competition playing out to an enthusiastic audience at the Cambodian Country Club (CCC). The crowd were treated to a fine display of top quality tennis action, including a resounding victory for homegrown hero Tan Nysan.
The Cambodian No 1, who became the first player from the Kingdom to attain a Southeast Asian Games medal by bagging a bronze at the 2007 tournament in Bangkok, turned on the style in the second set to crush his Vietnamese No 3 opponent Hoang Than Trung 7-5, 6-0. National team assistant coach Chea Poev said he thought Tan Nysan deserves to make Saturday’s final of the Singles event due to his strong work ethic, noting that he has the potential to beat good players because “he is a good player himself.”
Meanwhile on court 2, American Nathan Thompson made light work of Cambodian No 3 Orn Sambath, in a 6-1, 6-0 masterclass. Thompson is presently ranked 491st in the official Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) world rankings, and has achieved a career high of 351st in February of this year. The 26-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland, said he felt pretty good about his level of play, adding that he had heard of the event by word of mouth. “I visited my friend Braen [Aneiros, Cambodian national team technical director] in Cambodia in October, and he invited me to play in this tournament,” Thompson said. “Now I think I want to stay longer and train here during the off-season. I think tennis is moving forward fast here and I’d like to help out.”
Aneiros, a Panamanian who grew up in Cuba and played in the US, said he was pleased with the high level of play, having spent the past nine weeks working with the Cambodian players. “The priority is the SEA Games, and we are almost ready,” he said. “The players have been doing very good training and have very good fitness. It would’ve been nice to have more practice matches but this tournament is the best preparation for the Games.
“One of the goals of the federation in the next two years is to get the [Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup] competition recognised by the ATP, with official ATP ranking points awarded.”
The coach went on to state that Tan Nysan was Cambodia’s best hope for an SEA Games medal, noting that the team competition – which follows the format of the Davis Cup with singles and doubles rubbers – is another good chance for a podium place.
“Thailand has the highest standard of players,” revealed Aneiros. “Their No 1 player is ranked 120 in the world, and they have two more in the top 500. Twin brothers Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana are in the top eight in the world for doubles.”
In the later games starting at 7pm, 14-year-old Ek Chamroeun – who was making a last-minute stand-in for an ill-struck Bun Kenny – gave a gallant effort against Vietnam No 2 Bui Tri Nguyen, but succumbed in straight sets 6-1, 6-3.
Bun Kenny had been rushed to Phnom Penh’s Naga Clinic Wednesday shortly after his doubles match in a state of anaphylactic shock, with severe breathing difficulties and eyes rolled back in their sockets. After receiving emergency treatment including an injection of the anti-inflammatory drug Solu-Medrol, Bun Kenny quickly recovered and returned to training Thursday. However, he has been forbidden to compete in the Super Singles by his trainer. The Cambodian No 2, and a strong hope for medals at the SEA Games, was extremely disappointed to miss out on playing the local event, but is still on course to represent his country at the SEA Games in Laos next month.
According to Tep Rithivit, TFC general secretary, Bun Kenny had been suffering from breathing difficulties and allergy attacks for the past four or five months whilst living in France, and had been struggling to sleep well since his arrival in Cambodia a month ago due to regular heavy coughing. Results from blood tests taken this week have pointed towards a parasite as the cause.
Wednesday night late concluder was a sparkling tie between hard hitting Thai player Timo Sivapruksa and top ranked Vietnam star Do Minh Quan. A thoroughly enjoyable and tightly contested match saw the Vietnamese player emerge victorious 6-4, 6-4. Timo remarked after the game that he had struggled to see the ball when approaching the net in contrast to the backdrop, although he had to concede that it was the same conditions for his opponents as well.
On Thursday morning, Nathan Thompson and Timo Sivapruksa won the men’s doubles final against the Vietnamese one-two pairing of Do Minh Quan and Bui Tri Nguyen in a three set thriller 6-4, 2-6, 10-8.
Tep Rithivit was brimming with enthusiasm after a week of enthralling competitive play at the CCC. “There’s been a lot of interest, not only from the public but also from the foreign players about the tournament,” he said Thursday. “They are used to high caliber events, and are excited to play in Cambodia. They like the round-robin format of the Super Singles as it keeps them playing at a high level all the way through. The Vietnamese are especially grateful, as they are also using it to prepare for the SEA Games. They have all vowed to come back next year.
Tep Rithivit, whose famous tennis-playing father is commemorated in the event, said it had gone beyond his expectations, and will be looking to make it “even more global” for next year’s competition.