Thứ Ba, Tháng Một 18, 2022

Tennis star Nam sets sights on defending SEA Games title after ITF victories

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Lý Hoàng Nam of Việt Nam plans to defend his SEA Games title next May in Hà Nội. Photo of Lý Hoàng Nam

The achievement of three international wins within two months is promising for tennis player Lý Hoàng Nam, who is hoping to defend his title at the coming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

The Vietnamese won two titles at the International Tennis Federation’s M15 Cancun events in Mexico two weeks ago. Earlier, he was champion at the M15 Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt in October.

To date, Nam has earned five single ITFs’ titles in his career, which has pushed him to 576th position in the world. It is not his highest ranking but a jump of nearly 400 places was remarkable after nearly two years without international competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased with the titles, which resulted from my hard work and effective training programme,” Nam said.

“But future is ahead, I will have to focus totally on practising for the coming important matches.”

Born in 1997 in Tây Ninh Province, Nam is Việt Nam’s best tennis player and has struck many ‘first times’ in his career.

He became the national youngest champion after beating senior player Đỗ Minh Quân in 2012 at the age of 15. His record still remains.

A year later, he brought home a junior title from the Asian Youth Games in China. It was an earthquake for Việt Nam as it was the country’s first-ever continental gold.

He is the first and only Vietnamese to win a junior title at a Grand Slam. Together with Indian Sumit Nagal, he won the boy’s doubles title at Wimbledon in 2015.

Nam reached his and the national best world ranking of No 385 on December 12, 2018.

And in 2019, he grabbed the silverware at the 30th SEA Games, the most prestigious event in the region, ending Việt Nam’s title drought throughout the Games.

“His height of 1.75m is not ideal for a tennis athlete, nor does he have a powerful serve or graceful style. But my player is really hard working. His time for practice is always much more than anyone in the national team,” said national coach Trương Quang Vũ.

“The COVID-19 could not stop him from training because a long rest would make athletes’ physique go down, easily get an injury and create laziness. For professional athletes, having no competition for such a long time is really a torture.”

Vũ added that Nam’s good performance throughout his recent tournaments was a sweet result for which he had prepared for many months

Lý Hoàng Nam (right) and his coach Faruk Çelikel pose with the M15 Cancun trophy won on December 5 in Mexico. Photo courtesy of Lý Hoàng Nam

Việt Nam Tennis Federation (VTF) General Secretary Đoàn Thanh Tùng also praised Nam’s achievement.

“Nam was in the world top 500 in 2017 and placed highest at 385th in 2018. His progress stopped because of the deadly outbreak which forced him to cancel all competitions. He dropped to top 800 this October,” Tùng said.

“But the player showed his great determination and came back strongly with three ITF titles in a row. It is incredible because in the past with stronger support and better preparation he only won once in 2016 and another in 2017. I believe that this success will push him back into the top 500 soon, and he will complete his task at the 31st SEA Games on home soil next May.”

The top-flight player is currently in quarantine after returning home from Mexico last week. But he already has plans for the next tournament.

“I trained as usual during the pandemic. I strictly followed a curriculum sent by foreign coaches. It helped to maintain my physique while my technique also improved (to take my recent titles),” said Nam who won a men’s doubles title at the VTF Masters 500 in Hải Phòng in November 2020, and the singles title at the VTF Masters 500 in Tây Ninh in January 2021.

“I will have to work harder for the coming SEA Games. It was really hard to win the 2019 Games title but it is much more difficult to defend it. It is my biggest task of the year and is also an opportunity to confirm my No 1 position in Southeast Asia.”

“I also want to be more powerful to compete in higher-level tournaments such as the Challengers in the near future,” said the national champion in singles, doubles and mixed doubles events.

Nam, 24, will be back in training next week and will compete in three ITF tournaments, including Thailand’s M15 Chiang Rai in January.

“I will put all of these glories behind. The tasks of the future are more important. Tennis is my passion and I will follow it until the end,” he said.

Lý Hoàng Nam’s three ITF trophies that he won recently during his competition tour to Egypt and Mexico. Photo of Lý Hoàng Nam

Talking about Việt Nam’s golden hope, VTF President Nguyễn Quốc Kỳ said: “I am confident in his ability to win gold for Việt Nam in the SEA Games. He has shown rapid progress recently despite challenges and difficulties. Nam is getting better and better in both ability and playing style. He is always the title hope of Việt Nam in all international tournaments.” VNS

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