TENNIS / THAILAND OPEN (From : Today's Bangkok Post)
Paradorn aims for top eight finish
Star upbeat about Thai Open chances
Thai tennis ace Paradorn Srichaphan aims to finish the year in the top eight in the world rankings to qualify for the lucrative season-ending Masters Cup.
Paradorn is upbeat about his chance of clinching a place in the Masters Cup 2003 in Houston as his six remaining tournaments, beginning with the Thailand Open, are on hardcourt, his favourite surface.
The top eight players in the Champions' Race are eligible for the Masters Cup. Paradorn moved from 16th to 12th this week thanks to his impressive performance in the US Open where he reached the fourth round before losing to Australian Lleyton Hewitt.
Paradorn has 255 points to current No 8 Argentine David Nalbandian's 358.
``All the six tournaments will be played on hardcourt and five of them indoors. I should be doing well. It is highly possible for me to be in the top eight,'' the Thai star said yesterday.
As for the Thailand Open which is scheduled from September 20-28 at Muang Thong Thani, Paradorn is confident that he will reach the semi-finals.
As one of the four top seeds at the Thailand Open, Paradorn will not meet the other three players before the semi-finals. The three are world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, the French Open champion; No 2 Andy Roddick who defeated Ferrero for the US Open title on Sunday; and No 6 Carlos Moya.
Paradorn said he had dreamed about playing in an ATP tournament on home soil since he was a child and his dream was going to be true at the Thailand Open.
``The tournament comes at a right time. I have been in good form,'' said Paradorn, who retained the TD Waterhouse Cup _ the fourth ATP Tour title in his career _ just before the US Open.
Before the Thailand Open, Paradorn will lead the Kingdom against the Czech Republic in a Davis Cup World Group playoff, also at Muang Thong Thani.
Despite enjoying home court advantage, Paradorn said it was not likely that Thailand would get past the Czechs, led by Jiri Novak, for a place in the elite 16-nation World Group. ``It is very difficult,'' he admitted.
The 24-year-old and his family have been granted an audience with His Majesty the King next Wednesday at Klaikangwon Palace in Hua Hin where he will give the King the TD Waterhouse trophy he won last month.
Meanwhile, a group of Thais in the United States, led by Thanakorn Tuangmanee, has set up the Thai Tennis Organisation in America to cheer Thai tennis players in US tournaments and to give them help if necessary.
The organisation is also willing to give advice on tickets and accommodation to Thais who want to go to watch Thai tennis players in the US. The group is based in Washington DC and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org