|TOP RANK: Lý Hoàng Nam set a new record of being world No 239 in early October. The Vietnamese expects to improve his ranking to No 230 by the end of 2022 to qualify for the Australian Open next January. Photos courtesy of VTF
For every junior and professional tennis player, Grand Slams are the ultimate goal. Every player has at least once imagined what it would feel like to play in giant stadiums with thousands of people watching and make hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lý Hoàng Nam has the same dream, with a chance to compete at the Australian Open, the first major tournament of 2023.
The Southeast Asian No 1 is on the right path to make his and Việt Nam's dream come true as he has continuously scaled new heights in his career, particularly over the last few months.
In the latest ATP ranking, Nam has 220 points and places No 239 in the world, the highest-ever position for a Vietnamese.
He needs to collect 30 more points to enter the top 230, bringing him to Melbourne in January.
Two years ago, Nam was in the top 1,000 in the world ranking and limited in playing time due to the pandemic. But when the tournaments returned, he made an incredible comeback to take a position in the top 600.
2022 has been his most impressive year, as he boosted his ranking almost every month, winning five titles at ITF World Tennis Tour M15 and M25 events. In 10 months, he jumped 350 from No 589 to No 239.
"Frankly, having a Vietnamese player at a Grand Slam is a big dream. But in Nam's case, the dream is slowly coming true," said Việt Nam Tennis Federation General Secretary Đoàn Thanh Tùng.
"The higher ranking, the bigger chance. If he keeps improving his position, he will ensure his slot."
In an interview in April, Nam, 25, said he would quit if he could not make the world's top 100 when he was 30. So to get that target, he had to do everything to be in the top 300 this year.
He nailed it and has also helped Việt Nam upgrade to the Asia/Oceania Group 2 of the Davis Cup.
|ON FIRE: Lý Hoàng Nam competes and wins in the ITF Men World Tennis Tour M25 Tây Ninh – Hải Đăng Cup 2022 title on October 9.
He also defended his SEA Games title. His victory was a record for the regional sports meet because it was the first time a tennis player could win the gold medal two times in a row.
The Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open are the four Grand Slams. A total of 128 players get to play in the main draw of each Grand Slam: 104 through ranking, 16 through qualifying, and eight through wild cards.
Nam expects to earn his ticket from the second category, so he must be one of 128 athletes beginning from qualification. He must be in the top 230 by the end of this year to be selected.
"Keep fighting and keep moving for the next goal," said Nam, who is close to his target. "The most important thing is to keep working hard, enjoy the process and these matches."
According to his coaching board, Nam has to follow a strict plan to earn enough points and be ready for the Grand Slam if he makes it.
"I was surprised by his outstanding performance in recent tournaments, especially at the Thailand Open. He made incredible progress. He was confident against much higher-ranked rivals," said coach Trần Quốc Phong.
"Currently, he is in an intensive training programme to improve his technique and fitness. In some cases, he needs to strengthen his forehands and be more confident to play in attack and approach the net for points."
Grand Slam work
From now on, everything is about the Grand Slam target for Nam. The Tây Ninh Province-born resident will have a thick schedule until the end of next month.
He will compete in the M25 event in Jakarta from October 24-30 before travelling to Japan for three ATP Challenger 80 events in Matsuyama, Kobe, and Yokkaichi from November 7 to 27.
This will be Nam's first time competing in such a high-level competition. He is expected to collect 30 points from Japan.
"I hope Việt Nam can organise a Challenger event which lures athletes in the top 300, as playing against them will help me improve significantly," Nam said.
"I have also changed my playing style after working with different coaches and watching senior players' performances. I found that an attacking style would lift me to a new height, which can be seen through my recent victories. I will go much further with this style."
|FOCUSED: Nam competes in the Davis Cup's Asia/Oceania Group III in August in Tây Ninh Province. Nam is expected to be the first Vietnamese at the Australian Open 2023.
In the past, Nam represented Việt Nam at two Grand Slams but was in the junior category. He won Wimbledon's doubles in 2015 and advanced to the third round of the Roland Garros' singles class in 2016.
"They were junior events. Now, I am faster, stronger and better in all fields. I am more confident with a stable mind. It is due to my hard work for many years," said Nam, who will do everything to make his Grand Slam dream come true. VNS