THAI HOPE Luksika Kumkhum will need to regain her top form if she wants to beat newly-crowned Australian Open doubles champion Shuai Zhang of China in the US$250,000 WTA Thailand Open in Hua Hin tomorrow.
The country’s No 1, who fell out of the world top 80 this week after failing to make it beyond the first round in Melbourne, faces a daunting challenge from fifth seed Zhang, who celebrated her first Major trophy with Samantha Stosur of Australia on Friday.
The two Asians have met twice before, with the Thai victorious in China in 2015 before the Chinese returned the favour in Japan a year later.
After ending her 2018 season with two WTA 125K titles in Mumbai and Taiwan, Luksika has yet to get into the groove, having lost both her matches this year, in Shenzhen and Melbourne. Zhang, by contrast, has been in impressive form, also reaching the Australian Open singles third round.
“It’s going to be very tough, no matter who I play. She’s just won the Australian Open doubles and must be quite confident. She has a good defensive and offensive game,” said the 25-year-old Luksika whose best results at the WTA International level are two semi-finals, in Osaka in 2014 and Seoul in 2017.
“Since the Australian Open, I have tried to fix some of my shots but playing against Zhang is different. I need to figure out a way to play her,” said the Chanthaburi native, who still believes she can cause an upset.
“All I have to do is to play at my standard and stick to my game plan. As long as I can play my own game, I have a chance,” said the country’s lone hope in the singles in the home WTA event.
Other first-round highlights include a clash of the titans between top seed and former world No 1 Garbine Muguruza of Spain and former Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki of Germany. Another to watch is the showdown between former doubles No 1 Hsieh Su-wei of Taiwan, finalist in a WTA 125K Series here two years ago, and Monica Niculescu of Romania, a three-time WTA winner.
The opening ceremony featuring a muay thai show and traditional Thai drums is due today at 6pm.