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Vietnam’s Ly Hoang Nam with his coach and well-wishers.
Tennis gold for Vietnam in men’s final marathon

23 Aug 2013
Nanjing, China: If the Asian Olympic youth movement is looking for two worthy sports ambassadors, the men’s singles tennis final on Friday afternoon provided the ideal candidates. Vietnam’s Ly Hoang Nam, 16, and Jurence Mendoza, 17, of the Philippines, captivated the large crowd in a three-set marathon lasting 2 hours and 48 minutes in sweltering conditions.

The Vietnamese youngster eventually prevailed 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5 to take one of the hardest-earned gold medals of the 2nd Asian Youth Games, while Mendoza’s silver was received as good as gold by the proud supporters from the Philippines.

The match, the occasion, was a wonderful advertisement for the Olympic movement and Olympic ideals. It was played in a great spirit of friendship and sportsmanship, as the finalists had been training together during the week and had even promised to meet in the final.

Despite the energy-sapping conditions, the pressure of the final and the inevitable unforced errors from such young players, there was never an  angry moment and not one complaint against the officiating.

It was just serve after serve and rally after rally of attacking, adventurous tennis to entertain the spectators and leave the result in doubt until the very last point – a tired double fault on the big left handed serve of Mendoza when trailing 0-40, 5-6 in the third and deciding set.

“That’s the longest match I’ve ever played,” said gold medal-winner Ly, whose hometown is Binh Duong City, near Ho Chi Minh City. “Every rally was long and we both played so consistently. I feel so happy – and tired,” he added. “I will come back here next year for the Youth Olympic Games.”

The conditions were sauna-like even for the spectators, and the players ate bananas and drank water for sustenance during the changeovers, of which there were many. In the closing stages, every point was cheered by the two camps of supporters, and the neutrals remained glued to their seats as the floodlights came on and the sun began to set, producing a welcome early-evening breeze. The dark clouds that were threatening rain thankfully stayed away, allowing the match to reach its dramatic conclusion.

“Jurence - we are proud of you!” shouted an emotional Philippines supporter as the silver medal winner, exhausted from his efforts, covered his head with his towel and took a few moments to regroup and
recover. Soon he was on his feet again and graciously posing for souvenir photos with supporters who had sat through this AYG epic.
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