THE 13th annual Tep Khunnah Memorial Tournaments came to an end after a week on Sunday, culminating in a hard-fought men's final that went back and forth until Sok Samath eventually lifted the trophy, edging out his opponent Pel Vanna 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
Sok Samath long looked like a sure winner, having taken the first set and breezing to a 4-1 lead in the second. But a surge of will and his mighty serve brought Pel Vanna back into the game, until at 4-4 in the third set he seemed to lose his concentration and hit a string of errors that gave Sok Samath the win.
Tep Rithivit, secretary general of the Tennis Federation of Cambodia, was happy to see the two players who had come up through the TFC's youth program. "I remember them from when they were little," he said.
Even though international competition was largely missing, Tep Rithivit expressed his joy over the progress the tournament has made since its inception.
"It's hard work paying off," he said. "It's important for tennis in Cambodia."
Men were not the only ones playing. Dim Samsocheaphearun beat Ek Chamroeun 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the under-18 category, and Thun Tola and Yi Keavirak defeated Orn Sambath and Kan Sophorn in the men's doubles, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Among the women, Cheng Chorney came in first after dominating her competition in a round-robin.
The finals were attended by Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh, who is also the president of the TFC.
"When we started [in 1992], nobody here could even afford a racket. We have come far, but we still have a long way to go," he said.
"I long to see the day when the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport gives back the eight tennis courts at our Olympic Stadium."
Thus far, the TFC cannot award international tour points because it does not have the required minimum of four tennis courts.