Cambodia’s Triumphant Davis Cup Team Aims to Continue Momentum

As the Cambodian tennis squad who led the country in its first-ever Davis Cup last week reveled in their success at the tournament, they made one thing clear: This is only the beginning of Cambodia’s tennis achievements.

“My head is already on next year because I want to have a good performance again and move to Group II,” said Bun Kenny, Cambodia’s top player. “It’s just the beginning for us.”

Mr. Kenny, 22, led Cambodia’s four players in victories over the four teams in its pool-Singapore, Qatar, Burma and Jordan-as well as beating Turkmenistan 3-0 in the Asia/Oceania Group IV Series semi-finals playoff and moving up to Group III for next year’s Davis Cup.

Pannhara Mam, 25, who played for the squad in all five matches, said next year’s chances for success is good.
“We have the same chances as this year. Vetu and I will definitely be back to play. If we work hard and prepare again, we can play well,” he said.

Pannhara and Vetu Mam, 24, added an extra boost to the squad this year, traveling from Oregon-where they played at the highest level in US university tennis-to Cambodia, from where their father fled in 1975 from the Khmer Rouge regime.

Despite their American upbringing, the duo said they felt very connected to what the Tennis Federation of Cambodia (TFC) dubbed “Mission to Doha.”

“We haven’t lived in Cambodia or played here for several months, but we feel Cambodian and we are proud,” Pannhara said.

“This is big for Cambodia and people are more aware of tennis now. I feel more connected to Cambodia, and I want to do it again,” said Vetu.

Vetu added that the goal now is to build a deeper tennis program here. “You have to start with something and we did that this week, but we hope to inspire more youth to come out and play,” he said, joking that the squad has developed a fan base in Cambodia.

TFC Secretary-General Tep Rithivit echoed the sentiment: “It’s important to win, but it’s as important that we push juniors tournaments because we need more players,” he said, adding that the TFC will host a junior tournament in two weeks for this reason.

But for next year’s Davis Cup prospects, Mr. Rithivit is as confident as the players: “Our aim is to stay in Group III, and with the players we have I’m very confident we’ll do that.”

Rivals next year will include Malaysia and Vietnam-whose best players Mr. Kenny has already beaten-as well as the United Arab Emirates, which was promoted to Group III along with Cambodia.

Mr. Rithivit said the players’ unity, preparation and motivation is what gave them an advantage over other teams: “We were extremely focused and disciplined, and did everything together. No debutante team has won so quickly, and our inspiration is what made the difference.”

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