Steady Kittipong marches on
Thai guns down King-Turner in Thailand Open
Young gun Kittipong Wachiramanowong scored a scintillating 6-4 6-4 win over New Zealand's Daniel King-Turner 6-4 6-4 in the Thailand Open qualifying round at the Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani yesterday.
The 22-year-old Kittipong, ranked No 594 on the ATP list, had a daunting task in his first qualifying round against No 383 King-Turner, whose best singles results were quarter-final appearances in the 2005 Futures in the US and Japan.
King-Turner, 28, came out firing, hitting six ace serves yesterday, but his game was riddled with unforced mistakes and a couple of double faults, which cost him dearly. The Thai fared better with his hard pinpoint groundstrokes and returns, making life difficult for the Kiwi. King-Turner eventually succumbed and made an early exit.
Today, Kittipong goes up against Japan's Hiroki Moriya in his second qualifying round match. Moriya yesterday pulled off a 6-4 6-3 victory over India's N Vijay Sundar Prashanth in the other first round qualification match.
In other qualifying matches, South African Kevin Anderson outclassed Great Britain's Jamie Murray 6-2 6-1, Japan's Yuichi Sugita edged Dutchman Jean-Julien Roger 6-2 6-3 and Kazakh Gvgeny Korulev beat American Eric Botorac 6-2 6-3.
Meanwhile, Peerakiat Siriluethaiwattana, who received a wildcard into the main draw, will play Germany's Philipp Petzschner in the first round today. It will be the second appearance in the tournament for the Thai, who came through qualifying in to the main draw in 2007.
Meanwhile, Richard Gasquet, currently ranked world No 14, arrived in town yesterday, ready to make his debut in the Thailand Open.
"I'm very happy to come to Thailand. It's my first time. I am quite glad to compete in the Thailand Open. It's a big tournament and I will try to do my best in this tournament," said Gasquet.
Li Na tight-lipped
Chinese star Li Na remained tight-lipped yesterday about her decision to participate in Japan's Pan Pacific Open this week as a political crisis between the two countries deepens.
Last year's French Open winner remained stony-faced and refused to respond to a series of questions about the row over tiny islands in the East China Sea, causing moments of awkward silence.
Had she thought about skipping the tournament?
Did she feel pressured to come, after Chinese badminton players decided not to attend the Japan Open this week?
Li only acknowledged that she was following a tour schedule that was set nearly a year ago, while officials at the $2.17 million tournament stood by to block questions with any hint of diplomatic connotations.
Tokyo's nationalisation of the islands this month, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, sparked violent rallies across China that targeted the Japanese embassy, consulates and businesses, amid reports of assaults against Japanese nationals.
Sporting fixtures between the two countries have been abandoned.
Competitors from Japan are staying away from table tennis, cycling, rugby sevens and ice hockey events hosted by China, while Chinese badminton players and archers have pulled out of Tokyo-based events, citing safety fears.
Li appeared to relax a bit when asked about her new coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin's former coach, who has changed her forehand and serve.
She also said she was looking forward to taking a vacation after an exhausting season.
Only three weeks ago, the 30-year-old said she needed to take a break from the sport after a shock defeat to British teenager Laura Robson at the US Open.
"I can't go back on the practice court straightaway. I have to take some days off otherwise this will kill me," Li said immediately after the loss.
But in the end she only had a two-day break after the US Open and resumed her training in a bid to qualify for the WTA Championships in Istanbul in next month.
"After the US Open, I wished I could have a long break. But I started training...because I just found a new coach," she said.
"We need time to communicate. I know my goal is to be in the championships. There is not much time left. I have to work hard, even more than before," she said.
"Things are getting better and better," she said. "I believe, even during matches, I should be OK."
Order of play
Centre court: Play starts at 12pm
Qualifying - K Anderson (RSA) vs E Korolev (KAZ)
Qualifying - H Moriya (JPN) or N Prashanth (IND) vs K Wachiramanowong (THA)
Not Before 3.30pm
G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) / M Matosevic (AUS) vs [WC] S Ratiwatana (THA) / S Ratiwatana (THA)
Not before 7pm
P Petzschner (GER) vs [WC] P Siriluethaiwattana (THA)
 E Butorac (USA) / P Hanley (AUS) vs F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK)
Court 1 start 12pm
Qualifying - M Zverev (GER) vs T Yang (TPE)
Qualifying - Y Sugita (JPN) vs N Kadchapanan (THA) or Y Uchiyama (JPN)