It is not a foreign concept for international sports players to acquire Vietnamese nationality to compete for Vietnam, and the Southeast Asian country has already had a handful of naturalized players, with Alizé Lim the newest case catching public attention.
Alizé Lim, born in 1990 in Paris, is a French-Vietnamese professional tennis player. She won her first International Tennis Federation (ITF) Women’s Circuit title when she was only 20.
At the age of 24, Lim reached a new milestone when she officially won a ticket to play at the French Open, also called Roland-Garros, and kept attending the prestigious tournament in the next three editions.
The peak in her career came on May 26, 2014, when the tennis woman climbed to No. 135 in the world’s high singles ranking, while playing the 2014 French Open, where she lost in the first round to the reigning world No. 1 Serena Williams 2–6, 1–6, who was also her occasional training partner.
Her career-high doubles ranking as the world’s No. 148 came on November 7, 2016.
Lim’s father, Lim Quang, is a Vietnamese who moved to France at a young age.
But it was not until the end of 2017 that the woman's journey to trace her origin officially started.
At that time, Lim accepted the invitation to be the ambassador for image promotion of the Vietnam Open tennis tournament and it was also the first time she set her foot on her father’s homeland.
The comeback of Lim immediately stirred up Vietnam's tennis, as no Vietnamese tennis players had ever made such an impressive performance record as hers.
After two years playing in domestic arenas, the French-Vietnamese professional tennis player is working to obtain Vietnamese citizenship with the goal of hunting gold for Vietnamese tennis at the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, according to the Vietnam Tennis Federation (VTF) president Nguyen Quoc Ky.
|French-Vietnamese tennis player Alizé Lim plays in Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Inspired by Naomi Osaka
Sharing with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper about the reason behind her decision on Vietnamese naturalization, the beautiful woman said that she often heard her father talk about Vietnam in childhood.
“So when I was invited to the Vietnam Open, I promptly agreed,” Lim told Tuoi Tre.
But the 28-year-old tennis player could not imagine the warm welcome Vietnamese people gave her upon her arrival in the country.
“At that time, I had a great time in Vietnam, when I was able to play in the atmosphere that was ‘stimulated’ by the cheers of the fans,” she said.
The ‘naturalization wave’ has long appeared in sports, and players returning to their countries of origin like Alizé Lim is not uncommon in the world of tennis.
Among similar cases, the new U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka is the most famous.
Although her mother is Japanese and she was born and raised entirely in the U.S., Osaka entered the professional tennis world with dual Japanese and American citizenship.
Lim said that the story of Osaka has inspired her to bravely make the decision to register for Vietnamese nationality.
The French Vietnamese won Naomi Osaka in 2015, and lost when they clashed again in 2016.
The impressive record of Alizé Lim will certainly bring many benefits to Vietnamese tennis, especially in promoting the image of the tournaments and expectations of achievements in the coming time, according to experts.
And with the service of Lim, the goal of winning the gold medal at the 2019 SEA Games is quite feasible to Vietnam, they added.
Lim herself is also ready to take up that challenge.
“Winning gold medals for the Vietnamese tennis team at the SEA Games is one of my goals,” she said.
Vietnamese tennis players have never won any official tickets to attend the Grand Slam tournaments before.
At the age of 28, Alizé Lim still wants to be able to make a comeback at the Grand Slam, as well as winning new tournaments.
The tennis woman told Tuoi Tre she wished to go to the premier international team competition in women's tennis Fed Cup.
“I will also attend more tournaments in Asia. In recent years, Asian tennis has become more and more intense and this is a real adventure,” she added.
To Lim, these plans make her feel like “starting a new career,” she said.
In addition, Lim told Tuoi Tre that she was “planning a lot for Vietnamese tennis, including the building of an academy in the country.”
“I want to meet young [tennis] players, students and inspire them,” she said.
But the most important thing to her is still her career, the tennis player emphasized.
Currently, Lim has been struggling with abdominal and heel injuries over the past year.
She has dropped to No. 316 in the women's singles world tennis chart as of September 24, 2018.