Thai women seek hat-trick even without top stars

sports January 10, 2018 01:00

By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The Nation

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World No 13 Nitchaon Jindapol hopes to help Thailand win the women’s singles crown for the third straight year as she carries the Thai hopes into the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters, which got underway yesterday at the Nimibutr National Stadium.

With world No 6 Ratchanok Intanon still to start her season and defending champion Busanan Ongbamrungphan withdrawing with an ankle injury, the top-seeded Thai is the favourite to dominate the women’s category won by Ratchanok and Busanan over the past two years.

“Of course I’d love to win but I don’t want to be hard on myself and play without fun and confidence. In fact there are a few Thais who are capable of winning as we all have been working hard in the off season,” said the 26-year-old from Phuket, winner of three Grand Prix Gold titles.

The Thai No 2, one of the only few players who beat world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan last year, said she had been focusing on her physical strength during the off-season to get ready for a busy schedule over the next 12 months.

“I’ve got to have great stamina to last the entire year. I’m a bit tired but I’m ready to test where my level is now,” added Nitchaol who has never moved beyond the semi-final stage in any home event. Her three wins were in Canada (2013) and in Germany (2013 and 2017).

“Opportunities didn’t come [at home] in the past. I hope it will be different for me this week,” said Nitchaon, who will open her account against a qualifier today.

Thai No 4 and world No 23 Pornpawee Chochuwong is the other local prospect to cause an impact this week. The last year’s quarter-finalist should have an easy opener against Frenchwoman Delphine Lansac.

On the men’s side, all the top Thai players, including top seed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and third seed Khosit Phetpradab, are aiming to become the first Thai to win the men’s singles title.

The 23-year-old Khosit, the only Thai man with a singles title at Grand Prix level last year, is quietly confident, despite having only a week’s preparation.

“It won’t be easy to win but it’s not also unachievable. I’ve never moved beyond the quarter-finals at home so I need to go further this year and hope to keep going,” said Khosit, who will play Daren Liew of Malaysia in today’s first round.