Sophon Crashes in Qualifiers for ITF Juniors

The focus shifts to the showpiece Tep Khunnah Memorial ITF Juniors beginning at the National Training Center today with the Kingdom represented in the 32-player boys main draw by Tep Timothy, Leng Sarinreach and Chheang Vannasith, after Cambodian hopes Sen Sophon and Khleang Ponlok lost their first-round qualifying matches on Saturday.

South Korean Jaeyeon Yoo outplayed Kep’s poster boy Sophon from the Aspeca orphanage 6-0, 6-2, and Phnom Penh’s Ponlok battled hard in the second set before going down 1-6, 5-7 to Kaushik Hariharan of India.

Among the four wild-card entrants is Tep Timothy, grandson of the legendary late Tep Khunnah in whose memory this tournament has been staged.

“It is a highly emotional moment for our family and in particular Timothy who has grown up with the rich legacy left behind by my father,” said Tep Rithivit, the secretary-general of Tennis Cambodia.

The other wild-card holders are Ryo Watanabe of Japan, who is currently ranked 827th, Korean Lee Won-seok, ranked 1,348th and Takeshi Koey of Malaysia who is No1 in the ATF’s 14 & under rankings.

Two other Cambodian players, Chheang Vannasith and Leng Sarinreach, will also compete in the main draw of the first ever ITF Junior event held in the Kingdom. Vannasith and Sarinreach got into the main draw through their Cambodian ranking.

Meanwhile, Katie LaFrance (USA), currently 434th in the ITF Juniors ranking, was handed a wild card to the girls main draw. LaFrance’s rating places her above Runa Ichinose of Japan at 460th, who is the highest ranked direct entrant to the tournament. The second wild card pick is unranked Skia Kung of Chinese Taipei.

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