Vietnam tennis outlook dim despite first ATP event

HANOI: Vietnam has been hosting their first professional tennis tournament this week, but players and coaches hold out little hope that the sport is about to take off in the communist country. 

With daily ticket prices for the Vietnam Open costing more than two weeks of wages for the average resident, it's unlikely that tennis fever will quickly spread beyond its current preserve of the urban elite. 

And without government support, it will be years before Vietnam produces a star who can ignite the sport as Paradorn Srichapan did in Thailand. 

“What can we do? We need 50 years more if we (manage to) get the system working,” said Vietnam's former women's number two Vu Thi Hien.  

“We need to change everything.” 

Vietnam's top player Do Minh Quan, 1,411 in the ATP rankings, was the sole local hope in the US$380,000 ATP event in Ho Chi Minh City.  

But he lost in the first round on Monday.  

Quan said high-level intervention was needed to get the sport off the ground in Vietnam, where only the rich have access to tennis courts in luxury hotels and residential complexes. 

“Vietnam's sports authorities are not investing in its development,” said Quan. 

“Sports authorities should do more for young players, send them abroad for professional training and then integrate them in local clubs.” 

Tickets for the Vietnam Open, which began Monday, are selling at US$30 for the day pass and US$150 for the week – a small fortune in a country where the average worker gets around US$50 a month. 

According to Huynh Mai Huynh, a US national of Vietnamese origin, their best players of the future could be those based overseas. 

“There are few players in the country and the good ones have been the same for many years,” said Huynh, Vietnam's top woman player in 2004. – AFP  

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