Galaxy of stars light up Thailand Open
Kittipong upsets Mexican player in qualifiers
World No 9 Janko Tipsaravic of Serbia is chasing his second trophy of the year as he leads a stellar field of players in the US$608,000 ATP Thailand Open, which opened yesterday and ends September 30 at the Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani.
Tipsaravic will make his first appearance in Bangkok, hoping to be the first from his nation to lift a crown here, something his world No 1 countryman Novak Djokovic failed to do in 2008 as he lost the final to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. The 28-year-old, from Belgrade who reached a career highest of No 8 this season, had captured his only title of the year in Stuttgart in July. As one of the top four seeds, he receives a first round bye and will open his account against the winner of the match between Dutchman Robin Hasse and a qualifier.
Also coming to town for the first time is Richard Gasguet, the current world No 14 who has enjoyed a solid season with a 33-18 win loss record. The former world No 7 has reached the round of 16 in all four Grand Slams this year and two finals in Estoril and Toronto. The 26-year-old player will attempt to follow in the footsteps of countrymen Tsonga and Gilles Simon, who dominated this event in 2008 and 2009.
Seeded third is big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, the youngest in the top 40 at 21 years of age. His 196cm height helps generate explosive serves. The 15th-ranked Raonic, with an impressive 38-15 win-loss record in 2012, is one of the few serve-and-volleyers remaining on the ATP Tour and this type of game will make him one of the most dangerous players on Bangkok's indoor carpet surface.
World No 20 Gilles Simon is one of the two former champions - the other being 2010 victor Guillermo Garcia-Lopez - in action this year. The 27-year-old, who is fond of the local "tuk tuk" (three-wheeled taxi), will try to add another Thailand Open trophy to his collection.
Other seeds are Fernando Verdasco of Spain, Jeremy Chardy of France, 2009 finalist Viktor Troikki of Serbia and 2010 finalist Jarrko Nieminem.
Former top 10 player Gael Monfils, a finalist here in 2008 and 2011, is back again but with a new short hair cut. The Frenchman had been sidelined with an injury to his right knee for a few months and had returned to the circuit last week in Metz. He plays a qualifier in round one.
Australian ace Bernard Tomic, who just celebrated his 20th birthday on Friday, was drawn against former champion Garcia-Lopez of Spain, while another young-gun, Grigor Dimitrov, a quarter-finalist last year who has been battling with a foot injury during the American hard court season, takes on a qualifier.
Thailand's top-ranked men's player Danai Udomchoke and Davis Cup team-mate Peerakiat Siriluethaiwattana got wildcards into the main draw. They will have tough tasks against German Philipp Petzchiner and Go Soeda of Japan respectively.
"I'm really excited to get this opportunity," said Peerakiat, who is currently competing in a Futures event in Vietnam. "Whoever I play, it is going to be tough, but I will give it everything I've got."
Japan have another representative in Ito Tatsuma, who was pitted against eighth seed Fernando Verdasco, while another Asian hope, Lu Yen-shun, plays last year's runner-up Donald Young of the USA.
Meanwhile, in the qualifying competition, Thai No 2 Kittipong Wachiramanowong upset Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico 6-4 6-3 while Singekrawee Wattanakul moved into the second round when Andre Za of Brazil retired at 4-6 3-4 with injury.
Tickets for the Thailand Open start at just Bt300 and are available at all Thaiticketmajor outlets and metropolitan Thai Post offices. For more details call 02 262 3838, or log on to www.thaiticketmajor.com or wwwpthailandopen.org
All ticket buyers for the tournament can enter a lucky draw for a return trip for two to attend the ATP World Tour Finals in London in November.