Bring Anna to win her first title in Pattaya
Bring Anna to win her first title in Pattaya
Febuary 13 2003
By Wanchai Rujawongsanti
Thai tennis had a joyous weekend with the Kingdom's men's team defeating South Korea in a Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group One match and the country's top women's player, Tamarine Tanasugarn, winning her first WTA Tour title at the Indian Open.
Thailand, led by world No 13 Paradorn Srichaphan, won 4-1 at the Indoor Stadium, Hua Mark, but the number of spectators was disappointingly low.
The organisers, the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand (LTAT) and BEC-Tero, had hoped that ``Paradorn fever'' would make the match a sell-out at the 6,000-seat stadium _ but they were wrong.
The stadium was less than half-full on the first two days, although the number of fans was satisfactory on the deciding day on Sunday.
Ticket prices were widely blamed for the low turn-out. Critics said the prices of 200, 500 and 1,000 baht were too high for average fans although many agreed that the starting price of 200 baht was acceptable.
However, the 200-baht section at the Indoor Stadium was more than half empty on the first two days, prompting the question whether tennis has really become a big hit here or whether it is just fashionable to follow or play the sport since Paradorn's rise.
BEC-Tero enjoyed good business when it held four exhibition matches for Paradorn against Jan-Michael Gambill and Andrew Illie at the end of last year. Not surprisingly, the matches, held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima, were sold out as Paradorn had just returned from the most successful spell in his career.
The tickets were priced at 100, 300, 500 and 1,000 baht. BEC-Tero might have made a misjudgment by making the tickets for the Davis Cup more expensive then the exhibition series although the Davis Cup apparently required less investment.
This should be a lesson for BEC-Tero which will organise an ATP tournament later this year.
Meanwhile, Tamarine's nine-year wait for her first WTA title ended on Saturday when she defeated Iroda Tulyaganova 6-4, 6-4 in the final of Indian Open, avenging her defeat by the Uzbeki in the final of last year's Asian Games.
It was a deserved win for the 26-year-old Thai who had previously reached four finals only to be the second best on each occasion. In fact, she has been more consistent than Paradorn over the years. Tammy also has far more impressive results than Paradorn in Grand Slam events _ she regularly reaches the third or fourth round while Paradorn's best showing in a Grand Slam tournament is a third round spot at last year's Wimbledon.
India may be a good place for tennis players to kick-start their careers. Paradorn reached the final of Tata Open in Chennai (formerly Madras) before shooting to stardom last year. This year, the Thai star went a step further than last year by winning the tournament.
Tamarine worked very hard during the off-season, both on court and in the gym, knowing that if she could not make an impact this year, her compatriots would soon forget her.
The hard work has paid off.
It's true that the Indian Open was a small tournament with the total purse only US$140,000. But a win is a win and the winner can only gain confidence from it.
To her credit, Tammy has a relatively good start to the season. She reached the third round at Australian Open before falling to eventual winner Serena Williams. She also earned a place in the quarter-finals of the US$1.3-million Toray Pan Pacific earlier this month and again was defeated by the eventual winner, Lindsay Davenport.
It is not likely that a 26-year-old will improve drastically to be a major force in women's tennis which is dominated by a number of young stars. But a few more victories in low-key tournaments, plus reaching later rounds of major events, should be realistic targets for Tammy, the world No 28 who aims to finish the season in the top 15.
At least Tamarine can proudly say that she has a better record than Russian pin-up girl Anna Kournikova, who has not yet win a singles title on WTA Tour.
Her handlers have tried to help her end the title draught by sending her to compete in low-profile tournaments such as those in Mexico and China. But to date their efforts have failed to bear fruit.
As Kournikova is struggling to win her first singles title, her handlers may consider having her compete in the Volvo Women's Open, Thailand's only WTA tournament held annually in Pattaya.
She should love the idea as she could enjoy sun, sea and sand in one of the world's most famous beach resorts.
Bringing Kournikova to play here would not be cheap. There was an attempt to bring her here a few years ago but no deal was reached, probably because of financial reasons. But this time the government may be interested in luring her to play in Thailand. The government intends to make Pattaya more attractive by planning to set up a casino and building a racecourse in the resort town, and Kournikova could be one of the best public relations tools.
The country's tourism and sporting activities are now under the same agency, the Tourism and Sports Ministry, so a decision on approaching Kournikova to Thailand should be easier. Fittingly, Tourism and Sports Minister Sonthaya Khunpluem is an MP for Chon Buri province.
A few good words about Pattaya from Kournikova would be very helpful to the tourism promotion of Pattaya. The resort town could become a historic place in tennis if the glamorous player won her first singles title there. If she manages to win one before coming to the Volvo tournament, which is usually held later in the year, she would then be a champion and might be even more popular.
It would be worth the investment.