Rising Thai star Luksika Kumkhum expects a tough first round with Australian left-hander Casey Dellacqua as the action in the main draw of the PTT Pattaya Open starts today at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Pattaya.
The teenager, who sparked hopes of a Thai tennis revival with a stunning show in the Australian Open, has received a wildcard into the US$235,000 WTA event. She and the world No 102 will face off in the first round, the draw of which was conducted before three pin-up girls Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, Maria Kirilenko of Russia and Sorana Cirstea of Romania and other players.
“In a WTA event, no matter whom you play will be tough. But I have been practising hard for this tournament and I hope to produce some good results,” said the 19-year-old Luksika, who as a qualifier went on to win her first match in the Grand Slam main draw by stunning world No 39 Sofia Avidsson of Sweden.
“Regardless of how I did in Australia, there’s no guarantee that I will be able to do the same here in Pattaya because it’s a different tournament and the conditions are different. I don’t want to set any goal but I will take one match at a time. If I can win the first round, it would be a bonus,” said the world No 201 who will break into the top 200 this week.
With Tamarine Tanasugarn withdrawing from the tournament with a wrist injury, the singles main draw features only two Thais including Varatchaya Wongteanchai, who was awarded a wildcard by winning a home tournament in December. She is to play German Annika Beck in the first round.
World No 13 Ivanovic, who reached the quarter-finals here two years ago, will open her account against Japanese No 1 Ayumi Morita who just reached the Australian Open third round.
Last year runner up Kirilenko, who was engaged to Russian ice hockey player Alexander Ovechkin in December, will take on a qualifier.
Two-time defending champion Hantuchova was a late entrant to the field and had to ask for a wildcard. The sixth-seed will launch her title defence mission against Russian Olga Puchkova
In the first qualifying rounds yesterday, three Thais, all with wildcards, were knocked out of the competition. Kotcha Nattawadee was outclassed by American Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3 6-0. Nudnida Luangnam lost to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova 3-6 6-4 6-2 and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn went down to third-seeded Anastasia Rodionova of Australia 6-3 6-2
Top seed Chan yung-jan of Taiwan had to retire with injury at 2-6 1-3 against American Alison Riske. Duan Ying-ying beat Xu Yi-fan 6-2 7-5 in an all Chinese showdown.