Vietnam's tennis star eyes higher world ranking
"I used to say that if I could not advance to the world top 100 before I was 30, I would quit. So to get that target, I will have to do everything to be in the top 300 this year," said Nam who was 25 in February.
Like many other athletes, Nam was locked down domestically for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having no matches, his ATP ranking plummeted from the top 500 to the top 1,000.
"I could not fly for 18 months and only played several events in Vietnam. I was also bored with practising every day without targeted competitions. But I accepted and still worked hard for the return," Nam said.
When the tournaments were gradually opened, Nam was not at his peak but strong enough to participate in 16 international events in 2021. Among them, he secured three ITF Men’s World Tennis Tour M15 titles in Egypt and Mexico in October and November to enter the world's top 600.
"This tour was a real success for me. I gained points that I had dropped during months of no matches. My world ranking was pushed up. I think it was an important turning point for my strong return after the pandemic," said the former Wimbledon junior boy doubles champion.
The ASEAN No 1 player has then had an amazing first half of 2022 with consecutive wins locally and internationally.
Nam finished second twice in the M15 in France in March and Thailand in April. A month later he successfully defended his singles title at the SEA Games 31. He scored a hattrick of titles at the M15 events in his home town of Tay Ninh Province last month.
His remarkable performance has lifted him up the world rankings.
Nam jumped 29 places from No 393 to No 364, the highest place for a Vietnamese player in history. He broke his own record of No 385 that he set in November 2018.
He will attend a number of tournaments this year to make sure he will be in the top 300.
Later this month, he will fly to Malaysia for two M15 competitions. He will be back home to join the national team taking part in the Davis Cup's Group 3 in August in Tay Ninh. After that, he will travel to Thailand for the Challenger Tour 50.
"My target is to improve my level. The Challenger event is much tougher (than M15). I will have to boost my fitness and technique. My serves should be stronger while my forehand needs to be more accurate," Nam said.
Several M25 events around the world will be next in his plans.
The SEA Games 31's victory is his best memory to date.
Nam made history as the first Vietnamese athlete to win a tennis singles gold at the regional sport meet in 2019. Nearly three years later, he made another mark as the first player to successfully defend his title.
"I was happy because I defended the title and this time was more special because I won it in Vietnam," he said.
“Winning on home turf is really different. I was over the moon when lifting the cup in my home town for the first time.
"Three M15 trophies are really meaningful to me. I am no longer obsessed about losses in the final matches.
Tran Duc Quynh who was Nam's first coach in professional tennis has always been impressed by the player.
"Passion, striving and persistence are the secret weapons that guide Nam to success," former national champion Quynh said.
"He is a hard-working player with professional awareness. He always wants to improve himself and goes on the court with determination. He has been the most perfect-technical tennis player in Vietnam since he was 20."
Quynh said Nam did not have an ideal height (1.75m) for elite tennis. His fitness was not good enough, and his technique must be sharpened. But he is patient, industrious and ambitious. He has made himself a talented player.
Thai Truong Giang, owner of the Hai Dang Tay Ninh Tennis Club that Nam is a member of, said Nam was a willing player who devoted himself to tennis. He was not only the most experienced and awarded member of the club but also a big idol for many of his teammates.
"Tennis is a tough sport, I think. Players have to train and compete all year round to be at their peak. It is really hard but it trained me into a brave player with a strong spirit," Nam said.
"I'm a person who wants to challenge myself. I want to do things that people think I cannot. I always set high targets and grab them. I am now full of energy and confidence. Strong rivals are waiting for me ahead. It will be challenging but I am ready."
Source: Vietnam News