On a historic day when the International Tennis Federation’s annual general meeting passed a landmark resolution changing the Davis Cup and Fed Cup rules, the world governing body awarded the inaugural International Tennis Hall of Fame Global Organisation of Distinction Award to Tennis Cambodia in recognition of its outstanding achievements in rebuilding the game in the Kingdom.
The award was presented by the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) in partnership with the ITF during the AGM in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.
In his citation, ITHF CEO Todd Martin said: “The award recognised an organisation that has shown great commitment in inspiring the growth of tennis globally, which is an important shared priority of both the ITHF and ITF.”
Nominations were submitted by the tennis community at large, with the winner selected by a panel of representatives from the ITHF and ITF.
The award will be presented annually to a tennis organisation, association, federation or facility that has demonstrated a successful track record of distinguished service and contribution towards the growth of tennis.
Responding to a standing ovation from the floor of the AGM, Secretary-General of Tennis Cambodia Tep Rithivit declared: “I would like to dedicate this award to the 2 million people who died, a lot of them members of my family. I would also like to dedicate this award to my father, the late Tep Khunnah.”
Overcoming his emotions, a visibly moved Rithivit said: “All we [at Tennis Cambodia] wanted to do was be part of the family of tennis nations in the world. We have managed to do so by sheer inspiration, and with the support of the ITF that has helped us give tennis back to the nation and change lives.”
The Tennis Federation of Cambodia, which was renamed Tennis Cambodia four years ago, was officially re-established in 1994 under its current president, Cham Prasidh. He joined forces with Rithivit, who has been secretary-general since 1997.
Among the major milestones listed by the ITHF were Cambodia’s emergence from humble beginnings to become a strong tennis nation in the region, its notable record in the Asia Oceania zone Davis Cup campaign in a short period of time and its promotion of tennis on all fronts, including the introduction of wheelchair tennis and a grassroots programme for the underprivileged.
In his keynote address, Martin, a former American tennis pro, said: “Starting from a place of having no resources, equipment or players, Tennis Cambodia has built a successful national tennis programme.
“The organisation has reignited a love for the sport among the Cambodian people and has introduced tennis to thousands of children.
“They have only just begun, yet they have accomplished so much. We are thrilled to be able to recognise the efforts and successes of Tennis Cambodia before all of their peers here at the AGM. We look forward to seeing a bright future for tennis in this great nation,” he added.
ITF President David Haggerty, who visited the Kingdom earlier this year, said: “Tennis Cambodia is highly deserving of this honour. They have overcome the unthinkable and, with great passion, they have built something very special for their nation.’’
Established in 1954, the International Tennis Hall of Fame is a non-profit institution that preserves and promotes the history of tennis and celebrates its champions.
The Hall of Fame is located in the USA’s Newport, Rhode Island, on a seven-acre property that features an extensive museum that showcases the history of the sport and honours 252 Hall of Famers.