World No 66 Luksika Khumkum will carry Thai hopes against a high-quality field including two-time Major champion Sabine Muguruza of Spain at the US$250,000 (Bt8 million) Thailand Open presented in Hua Hin next month.
The Thai No1 is the only home player with guaranteed entry into the WTA event, which represents the Kingdom’s first since the 2015 Pattaya Open.
The 25-year-old Luksika, who ended her season in style by claiming two WTA 125K series titles in Mumbai and Taipei City last month, is hoping to make a big bang in the country’s biggest tennis tournament, which will be played from January 28 to February 3 at the True Arena.
Seven top 50 players, including the 18th-ranked Muguruza, the 2016 French Open and 2017 Wimbledon champion, have signed up to compete at the beach resort town.
“The entry list is quite tough, which is normal for a tournament this level,” said Luksika, whose only concern is world No20 Wang Qiang of China, who has beaten her on each of the last seven occasions they have met.
“But I really want to play at home for the first time in two years and I hope to turn all the expectations from fans into motivation.
“I hope to have a good draw and not have to play Wang too early but if I have to play her again, I will try to return her the favour in front of the home fans,” added Luksika who has trained during the off-season with former top 100 ATP player Danai Udomchoke.
“I have worked a lot on my footwork and movement. I am also focusing on fitness training so I am physically tough for the new season,” added Luksika, who will kick off the year with a tournament in Shenzhen, ahead of the year’s first major, the Australian Open before heading to Hua Hin.
Meawnhile Suwat Liptapanlop, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Advisory Chairman of the Thailand Open, said True Arena had been specially refurbished to mark the return of the WTA tour to Thailand.
“They have installed additional grandstand seating on Centre Court (from 1,000 to 2,500) to accommodate more people and provide a better atmosphere for both the players and spectators,” Suwat said.
Former world No9 Paradorn Srichaphan, co-Tournament Director of Thailand Open, said the event would be shown on True4U, True Tennis and True Sport, with an international broadcast (including China) also available through Fox Sport, Astro Supersport, Digisport, MobiTV and the WTA’s own channel.