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THAILAND OPEN: A tennis treat
Published on Sep 26, 2004
World’s best players lob into Thai capital
For hardcore Thai tennis fans, the Impact Arena over the next week will be the sole focus of their attention and the absolute highlight of their year. On court throughout the week will be the mega stars of world tennis – in particular world No 1 Roger Federer and the man with the most powerful serve of all, Andy Roddick who would crawl over razor wire to take Federer’s crown.
This is the second Thailand Open, the biggest ATP event in Asia that offers total prize money of US$550,000, and it has attracted about 20 of the world’s top 100 players. Three current or former world No 1 players will be there – the popular Carlos Moya, 1998 winner of the French Open is a last-minute withdrawal.
But local expectations will be behind Paradorn Srichaphan to beat the odds and take his first career title on home soil after failing to live up to the expectations last year.
All eyes, though, will be firmly fixed on four-time Grand Slam champion Federer, the undisputed world No 1 who has dominated three majors this season, missing only the French Open.
After claiming his fourth Grand Slam crown in New York a fortnight ago, the Swiss star will no doubt be keen to add the Thailand Open trophy to his cabinet.
The presence of Federer is not the only treat for the fans. For youngsters, it will be a great chance to see one of the most talented players of all time in the flesh. It will be a shame if juniors who want to pursue a tennis career do not take the opportunity to see up close Federer’s natural stroking of the ball, especially on his backhand. Not every day do you get to watch the world No 1 in the flesh.
Despite standing fans up last year with a last minute withdrawal, Roddick, who lost his top ranking to his great Swiss rival, hasn’t lost popularity in the Kingdom, especially among girls.
Regarded as one of the better looking players on the tour and having rather unique on-court characteristics, he rates second only to Federer as a main attraction.
The 2003 US Open winner yesterday recorded the fastest serve ever at 249kph in the Davis Cup tie against Belarus, eclipsing his 239.7kph serve at the Queen’s Club in June in a match against Paradorn. When Roddick serves, don’t blink or you will miss it.
Shortly after spearheading Russia’s Davis Cup win over Thailand in Moscow, Marat Safin, another heart-throb for the female fans, is back in business and will be vying for back-to-back titles after his recent victory in Beijing.
The former world No 1 and 2000 US Open champion suffered a wrist injury which forced him to miss most of the 2002-2003 season.
But winning the China Open, his first title in two years, is a sign that the big man is back. The only problem he
faces is adjusting to a new surface, in this case from clay to the indoor hardcourt surface, one of the reasons why many big-names exit early from tournaments.
Although Paradorn has five singles titles under his belt – his latest is the Nottingham Open on grass this year – he has yet to fulfil his wish to win a home tournament. A year ago, the world No 20 came close to that dream but lost a thriller to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the quarter-finals, a loss that made him weep on court.
This year will be even more of a challenge for the home star. He will need to repeat the superb form he showed in 2002 when he upset many top 10 players in a flurry of wins to emerge as one of the most improved players on the tour.
Realistically, he is not a strong contender for the title judging from his performances this year. Since stunning Roddick in the Paris Masters in 2002, Paradorn has failed to beat another top 10 player.
Meanwhile, lurking quietly in the shadows ready to surprise the unwary is the under-rated Taylor Dent, winner of the inaugural Thailand Open. His serve and volley game might not work effectively elsewhere, but here it is a lethal weapon.
In fact, Dent has yet to lose a singles match in Thailand. He won seven matches in a row from the qualifier onward to claim the 2003 trophy, and when he returned in December for an exhibition, he was still invincible. There’ll be a lot of interest in seeing which player can snap his amazing winning streak.
The opening ceremony with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is at 7pm on Tuesday, after which Federer will kick off his campaign. Channel 3 will broadcast the tournament from Monday to Sunday.
1. Roger Federer (SUI)
2. Andy Roddick (USA)
3. Marat Safin (RUS)
4. Paradorn Srichaphan (THA)
5. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO)
6. Taylor Dent (USA)
7. Feliciano Lopez (ESP)
Other main players include Robin Soderling (Sweden),
42, Thomas Johansson (Sweden), 47, Igor Andreev (Russia), 49, Irakli Labadze (Georgia), 57, Cyril Saulnier (France), 58, Ivo Karlovic (Croatia), 63, Dmitry Tursunov (Russia), 69, Dennis Van Scheppingen (Netherlands), 72, Julien Benneteau
(France), 74, Gregory Carraz (France), 78, Alexander
Popp (Germany), 81, Jeff Morrison (USA) 97, Adrian Garcia (Chile), 103, Alex Bogomolov Jr (USA), 106, Todd Reid (Australia), 107, Flavio Saretta (Brazil) 126, Danai Udomchoke (THA), 163, Justin Gimelstob (USA), 256.