America’s Nathan Thompson smashes Vietnam’s Do Minh Quan 6-2, 6-0 in the final Saturday to win the 2009 Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup Super Singles title
IT wasn’t the final that the masses had wanted. Cambodian No 1 Tan Nysan had suffured a spectacular fall from grace Friday when he saw his 5-2 lead in the deciding third set overturned by Vietnam top man Do Minh Quan. Victory for the local star Friday would have set up a blockbuster tie at the Cambodian Country Club against tournament favourite Nathan Thompson of the US. Instead, it was the visiting Vietnamese No 1 who took the court against the American in Saturday’s final, albeit nearly an hour late.
After a ceremonial releasing of caged birds by the Tep family to honour the memory of their tennis-playing father Tep Khunnah, the microphone announcer cheekily introduced the two international players to the audience, saying: “You can tell which is which yourself”, in reference to their obvious difference in stature and skin tone.
In a cagey start to the match, and despite an extremely brief warmup due to his tardiness, Do broke Thompson to take the first game with some intelligent backcourt play. However, Do then produced some double faults on his serve to allow Thompson to break straight back.
Thompson produced a delightful slice to set up a powerful passing stroke to claim the third game, and despite the match’s first two aces by the American in the following game, Do showed his determination to grind out yet another break of serve.
Service seemed to be hindering the players, with a slew of serving faults leading to the fifth straight broken game. However, Thompson finally managed to push through a patchy sixth game to hold his serve and go 4-2 in the set.
This was to prove a turning point in the game, as both players appeared to find the form they’d shown throughout the week to make some entertaining rallies. Do was clearly suffering from the draining three-setter the night before, and was punished for lapses in concentration in the seventh game. Thompson then served out the set, with an early ace and some clinical touches that proved too much for Do.
The athletic 26-year-old from Baltimore, Maryland, then quickly stamped his authority in the second set, breaking his Vietnamese opponent with winners that included a sublime lob that received warm applause from the attentive audience.
Thompson punched the air in celebration after clinching the second game with a cross-court pass from an inspired rally that saw both players run ragged around the court.
With the sun falling fast and the floodlights switched on, Thompson demonstrated why he had risen to 351st in the world rankings earlier in the year, controlling returns with consummate ease and earning raucous cheers from the crowd for some classy shots that helped him take the next two games.
Do was down but not out, recording his first ace of the match, but he failed to close out the game twice and let Thompson steal it to set up service for the championship.
A dramatic Air Jordan leap to smash home a volley granted “Air Nate” championship point, which he duly converted to a standing ovation.
Thompson said, after the final, that he had settled in earlier than his opponent, and had benefited from a good start to the second. “[Do] had plenty of game points,” said Thompson. “But I converted the big points.”
The American went on to praise the organisation of the tournament, and said he hoped to return to the Kingdom in the near future. “I’m going to be back here soon for sure,” he assured.
“I had a very fun week. A lot of good things are going on in Cambodia.... I hope to help things grow here.”
Women’s singles winner Huynh Mai Huynh (left) and runner-up Tran Lam Anh pose with their trophies at the Cambodian Country Club.
Thompson said he would be heading to Malaysia on Monday for a tournament before returning to Bangkok. “I’ll be training throughout the off-season, and I hope to push early next year for a rise in the [ATP] rankings.”
Do Minh Quan apologised for not playing at his best in the final, thanking the Tennis Federation for the invitation and stating his intent to return to the event next year.
Attending dignitary Vath Chamroeun, general secretary of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, gave a short speech during the closing ceremony.:“I hope the 15th Tep Khunnah Memorial Cup next year will be even bigger and better, and I hope to see everyone back here again.”
In the women’s final earlier Saturday, Vietnamese Huynh Mai Huynh beat compatriot Tran Lam Anh 6-2, 6-4 to take the title.
In the other categories, rising local talent Ek Chamroeun was soundly beaten in the men’s finals by Vietnamese Le Quoe Kanh 6-2, 6-0. Long Samneang overwhelmed U18 finals opponent Chan Chav 9-0 in their nine-set match. Sok Oun was winning 6-0 in his nine-set final of the over-45s against Jeong Byeondae when the Korean was forced to retire, granting the local veteran first place.
Photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)