|Sharing the glory: Ly Hoang Nam (right) and Sumit Nagal pose with their Wimbledon boys' doubles trophy after beating Reilly Opelka and Akira Santillan 7-6, 6-4 in the final in London on July 12. — Photo itf.com
Though he came to Wimbledon just to gain experience, Vietnamese tennis pro Ly Hoang Nam ended up leaving the competition with his homeland's first junior title. Thanh Ha reports.
The first Vietnamese person to win a junior Wimbledon title, Ly Hoang Nam, has made history. Bagging the boys' doubles title, he made a name for himself in the world tennis scene.
Nam and his Indian partner Sumit Nagal beat fourth-seeded duo Reilly Opelka of the United States and Akira Santillan of Japan 7-6 (4), 6-4 in the final on Court 1 on July 12.
Coming to the tournament with the aim of gaining some experience, Nam never thought he would reach the final, but he played really well to claim his maiden Grand Slam junior title.
"It is a dream come true for me because I was disqualified early in the singles event. I am very happy now. It will be a strong motivating force for me in future," said Nam.
Nam had set himself the target of advancing to the third round of the singles event, but was ousted in the first round itself.
"I was really sad after the loss, but my coach encouraged me a lot and told me to work harder and focus on the doubles category," he said.
Nam found his partner Nagal, who had trained in Germany, through Facebook, and they had only one day to practise before their first match, in which they beat Alex De Minaur and Yosuke Watanuki 6-4, 7-5.
"We did not coordinate very well in the first few matches, but the more we played the better understanding we gained of each other's game. It helped us go smoothly from round to round," 18-year-old Nam said.
The duo came from behind to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 against Jonathan Gray and Ewan Moore of Britain in the second round.
It was easier for them in the quarter-finals as they beat Japanese duo Yusuke Takahashi and Jumpei Yamasaki 6-2, 6-3.
The semi-finals saw a marathon third set between the eighth-seeded pair and fifth-seeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Casper Ruud of Norway. The match ended after 140 minutes with Nam and Nagal winning 7-6, 3-6, 12-10.
"Nagal and I make a perfect team. Nagal has very quick reflexes and scores a lot of net points. I have a strong forehand and I take care of the baseline area. Moreover, after the quarter-finals we knew we had a chance to win the title, so we did the best to win," said Nam, adding that luck also played a role in their success.
Route to stardom
Nam first touched a racket when he was six years old, when he accompanied his mother to a tennis court in Tay Ninh Province.
"As a little boy he was very much interested in the racket and the ball, and many people said he had a good tennis mind, so I helped him take his first steps in the sport," said Thanh Yen, Nam's mother.
A couple of years later, Nam achieved successes in tournaments for juniors.
He then joined Becamex Binh Duong, which has greatly helped Nam advance his tennis career.
In his early days Nam was coached by Tran Duc Quynh, the former national No 1, who recognised Nam's potential and helped him shine.
Nam's first breakthrough came when he won the national championship title in 2012 at the age of 15.
He ended the long domination of Do Minh Quan in tennis in Viet Nam and became the youngest tennis champion in the country.
A year later, he made a splash by winning the gold medal in the Asian Youth Games in China, the first ever title Viet Nam had won at the continental level.
For the past one year, Nam has been training with coach Christian Brydniak, who has helped Nam quickly develop his physique, technique and a competitive mind.
Nam showed his progress by breaking into the world's top 100 juniors and reaching the 49th rank last March. He needed one year to come close to the top 10 and is now ranked 12th.
After the Wimbledon victory, Nam has also jumped in the rankings for men, in which he is placed at No. 1,242, the best ranking achieved by a Vietnamese so far.
He is also the first player from Viet Nam to take part in all the four Grand Slam tournaments.
The US Open is approaching and he will compete in the singles and doubles competitions for juniors.
Nam received a letter of appreciation from the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Hoang Tuan Anh, for his success.
In his letter, Anh congratulated Nam and expressed the hope that the player would try for better results in future.
Nam's next aim is to become one of the world's top 300 or even top 200 tennis players in two years. He has the full support of the Becamex Binh Duong sport centre.
"It will cost a lot, but we have known that since we began supporting Nam when he was a little boy. We'll do our best to push him into the top 200 in the world," said Le Viet Cuong, director of Becamex Binh Duong. "We‘ll sit down and talk with our partners to find the best conditions for Nam," he said.
Nam's coach Quynh said, "Nam's Wimbledon victory proved that he has made big strides in terms of physique, technique and confidence. He has all the characteristics of a professional player. He can make it to the top 200 or do even better."
Nam said he still needed to improve his serve, which has to be stronger, as it is more difficult to play in the professional competitions. A strong physique is also a must, so that he can play long matches. Most of all, he has to learn not to give up and surrender to a challenge.
"I have learnt a lot from this tournament and it will be a valuable lesson for me in my professional career next year. Challenges lie ahead and I have to find ways to overcome them and go farther and reach a higher level," said Nam, who met his idol Novak Djokovic during the party for the champions in London.
"His backhands are the best in the world. He has a strong playing style and a stable mind," said Nam, adding that he had learnt a lot from the top players during his two weeks at Wimbledon.
"I watched them a lot, from warming up to relaxing after training. I'll apply what I learnt to improve myself," he said. — VNS