For the first time in three weeks, the top-seeding was justified as Taiwan’s Chen Ti defeated fourth seeded Toshihide Matsui of Japan 6-3, 6-4 to win the final leg of the Cambodian US$10,000 ITF Futures Series for the GLF Tep Khunnah Trophy at the National Training Center on Saturday.
Close matches between these two circuit regulars go back a long way and their recent brush was two months ago at an event in Shanghai.
In his address to spectators after the match, Chen Ti said he was happy to win on this occasion. “Matsui is a great competitor. I feel tennis is all about long term improvement. I won this week, may be the outcome is different next week.”
In yet another hard-fought encounter, what made the difference on Saturday was that Matsui didn’t play well enough, by his own admission, and Chen didn’t miss much.
“Today was not just my day,” Matsui told the crowd, while complimenting his rival for his consistency. That, indeed, was the snapshot of the final.
The first seven games stayed with the servers in the first set but when he came around to serve the eighth, Matsui was the one to lose his resolve after the first two points had been shared.
Matsui, ranked as high as Japan’s No 1 in doubles, rushed to the net behind his serve only to be cleverly lobbed over by Chen.
Matsui completely misread the flight. He preferred to leave it alone. The ball landed in, bang on the line. Just the kind of a shock Robin Kern had gone through when his judgment in a similar situation had gone wrong on set point against Ramkumar Ramanathan in the quarter-finals.
What followed was a Matsui outburst at the chair umpire and the loss of his serve. Chen seized the break and served out the first set.
A break in the third game of the second set allowed Chen to free his arms as he began to get on top of almost every return. As the 30-year-old grew in confidence it was seemingly draining out of Matsui, though he stayed sharp on his service games and retained them till the end of the match. Unfortunately for 35-year-old Matsui, Chen would also remain as sharp.
Serving for the match 5-4, Chen saw Matsui save one match point with a delicate shot at the net but on the second, the top seed produced a passer that left his Japanese opponent stranded, having moved up behind his sliced return.
“I had a good time here in Cambodia,” said Matsui, who brought out a peal of laughter from the crowd when he said in a lighter vein: “I want to thank the officials, chair umpires, line judges and ball boys, even though they gave me a hard time this week.”
He also offered his special thanks to GLF President Mitsuji Konoshita for sponsoring the last two weeks of the competition.
Interestingly enough, the year Matsui came on to the Japanese pro circuit scene fresh from Hawaai University, Konoshita was bowing out of his professional career to pursue business interests.
At the closing ceremony, Konoshita spoke about his own playing days and his long relationship with Matsui. “Personally I was rooting for Matsui, but in my mind I wanted both players to have a good match.
“I thank His Excellency Cham Prasidh for not only his excellent leadership but to make time to be with us here”, he added.
Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy Cham Prasidh, who is also the president of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, highlighted the significance of GLF’s partnership with the Futures events for the last two years.
“It is not easy to find sponsors these days. I thank Mitsuji Konoshita for this great support to Cambodian tennis,” the TFC President said.
Indians win doubles
Friday turned out to be sweet and sour for the two Indians competing in the singles semi-finals and doubles final.
Last week’s GLF Cham Prasidh Cup winner Ramkumar Ramanathan and his compatriot Karunuday Singh combined very well to win the doubles final against the Japanese duo of Takuto Niki and Arata Onozawa 6-4, 6-3. But on the same day their singles campaigns came to an end.
Toshihide Matsui defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan 6-2, 7-5, while Chen Ti had to battle hard all the way to down Karunuday Singh 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3).