[TENNIS] Though the absence of Thai ace Tamarine Tanasugarn is proving to be a definite setback, Suchanan Viratprasert carries the hopes of the Kingdom into the Fed Cup World Group II tie against the powerful Czech Republic this weekend.
The Thai No 2, who took upon the mantle of No 1 player temporarily when Tamarine decided to skip the tie, remained positive despite the presence of three top 50 players, including the 15th-ranked Nicole Vaidisova, in the visiting squad.
"It will be very difficult to beat the Czech team as they have sent all good players. But it doesn't mean that we stand no chance. We have to wait and see what will happen on court,'' said Suchanan, ranked only No 192 in the world.
Besides the Thailand Open champion Vaidisova, the Europeans have world No 33 Klara Koukalova and No 45 Iveta Benesova in their ranks. The only player outside the top 100 is Barbora Strycovam who is 202.
Thailand, on the contrary, comprise only lowly-ranked players Napaporn Tongsalee 257, Monthinee Tangphong, 282, and newcomer Nudnida Luangnam, No 428.
Regardless of the outcome, Suchanan felt the team would reap some gains from the highly experienced rivals.
"It's not everyday you get a chance to play these players. They are in the top 50 and normally we have to win many qualifying matches to meet them. So this will be a good experience for us,'' added Suchanan.
Suchanan has confronted Vaidisova once before, in the second round of the Thailand Open last year. The Czech teenager subdued the Thai 6-3 6-1 and went on to win her third professional title in a row.
"I was lucky to have played her before so I have some information. She hits fast and attacks every time you give her opportunities. But I will fight for every point,'' said Suchanan, who has a brilliant Fed Cup record. She stunned two top-100 players, Nicole Pratt of Australia in the 2004 tie and Sanda Mamic of Croatia last year.
Though Suchanan will be the backbone of the team for the first time, she said the pressure has not got to her.
"I don't have any problem being the team's first singles player. It'll feel rather strange not having Tammy with us. In the past there were the four of us,'' Suchanan said.
The Thai team started their practice yesterday at the Rama Gardens Hotel while the Czech team is due to arrive today. The draw will be conducted at 5pm on Thursday. The competition starts at 3pm on both Saturday and Sunday.