Picking up tennis in lessons at the two different orphanages they were growing up in, teenage girls Hour Sreypov and Ho Sreynoch had no idea that one day they would be representing Cambodia in a major event like the SEA Games.
That moment has arrived.
Sreypov and Sreynoch are part of the four-member national women’s tennis team that is set to compete at the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is a life-changing experience for the girls, and a great inspiration for the hundreds in our tennis development programmes,” said secretary-general of Tennis Cambodia Tep Rithivit.
“They are the prime examples of the success we have achieved in creating a pathway for our young players in Cambodia to disprove widely held notion that tennis is for the rich and famous. It is for the talented and hardworking,” he said.
Younger than Sreypov by one year, 16-year-old Sreynoch was taken in when she was 5 by Sunrise Children’s Village in Takhmao near Phnom Penh after her single mother was unable to support her. She began her tennis at 8 and has never stopped since.
The bubbly Sreynoch strikes a sharp contrast with the calm and reserved Sreypov. Born in Kampong Cham, Sreypov, much like Sreynoch, grew up for a while under the care of her single mother before being moved to the Holy Baby Orphanage in Kandal province at the age of 5.
When Tennis Cambodia’s grassroots programme was launched at the orphanage in 2011, Sreypov, 11 years old then, was among the keenest to learn. It showed a few years later when she began to assert herself and remained unbeaten in events in her age category for nearly two years.
The two girls were thrilled when they were selected to represent Cambodia at the Future Stars event in Singapore on the sidelines of the year ending multimillion-dollar WTA finals two years ago.
Everything happening around them in Singapore was a like dream for the young pair. Though they were ultimately unsuccessful against the stronger players they ran into, off court they had unforgettable experiences, including a seat to watch an exciting three-set win by Maria Sharapova over Agnieszka Radwanska, two of the world’s leading players at the time.
More thrills were in store when Sreypov received a Yonex racquet autographed by Germany’s Angelique Kerber and Sreynoch a Wilson from Chan Hao Ching of China.
Clearly motivated by that unique opportunity to mix with players from various countries and watch some of the best in the world train and compete, Sreypov and Sreynoch have strengthened their own resolve to do well.
French born-Cambodian Andrea Ka, who has taken Cambodian women’s tennis to new heights having reached a career-high ranking of 520 in the world will lead the team in Malaysia, with American-born Cambodian Som Chhinda from Rochester, New York, completing the line-up.
Andrea and Chhinda created history two years ago as the first set of Cambodian female players to represent the country as a team at the Singapore SEA Games. The addition of Sreypov and Sreynoch will add another layer of excitement this year.