KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Noppawan Lertcheewakarn
has been on the radar for some time, thanks to her fine career in the juniors, which included beating Kristina Mladenovic for the Wimbledon
girls' title in 2009 and holding the No.1 ranking. Turning her attention to the tricky transition to the tour, the young Thai nicknamed Nok ('bird') won a third ITF singles title in 2010 and played her first Grand Slam main draw - appropriately at the All England Club.
We caught up with one of Asia's brightest hopes during the recent BMW Malaysian Open, where the 19-year-old was runner-up in the doubles with Jessica Moore - her first WTA final of any kind.
How did you get into tennis?
Everyone in my family played tennis - my mom, my dad, and my sister Apinya. We had our own court at home in Chiang Mai, so, I got used to being a ballgirl for my parents! But quite soon I started to play - I was only around four years old at the time.
What's your coaching history and situation at the moment?
My dad was my first coach. After that I had about five or six coaches and I use a Thai coach right now.
How do you describe your playing style?
My style is to play fast from the baseline. I like to play a flat ball, and play aggressively.
Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
When I was very young, I liked to watch Monica Seles
play, with two hands off both sides - just like me. She played very well and I like the way she is. Now I like Federer... he's so good on the court and off court too. He knows what he's doing.
If you could steal a shot from another player, what would it be?
I'd like Serena's backhand.
Favorite surface, tournament, city?
I like to play on hardcourts and grasscourts. Last year I voted the BMW Malaysian Open
to be my favorite tournament. I like the city of Kuala Lumpur also. But of the Grand Slams I like Wimbledon
What are your goals in tennis?
My goal for this year is to make the Top 100. Right now I'm around 160, so hopefully it's not too hard, not too much to aim for. My ultimate goal at the moment is to be Top 10 in the world.
Who has been your toughest opponent to date?
Actually there are a lot… all of the Top 100 players are my toughest opponents! Sometimes our games can be much the same, but they have more experience and that makes the difference.
What's your best tennis memory to date?
Winning junior Wimbledon
is still the best, especially because the previous year I lost in the final. So to come back and win it was a great feeling.
How far did you go in your schooling?
Hopefully I'm in my last year of high school right now. Because of my focus on tennis, I'm two years later than other pupils.
What do you like to do for fun?
I like shopping, going to the movies - I like everything from The Notebook
- and a little karaoke! On TV I like to watch Glee
and Gossip Girl
What kind of non-tennis skill do you wish you had?
Something to do with music. I love singing… I know almost every song but I'd like to be able to sing them better.
What sort of music do you like?
I listen to Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, R&B and rap songs.
If you had to describe yourself in one word, what would it be?
Aggressive, just like on court!
If you could meet anyone in the world, who would you like it to be?
I'd like to meet the American actor Channing Tatum. I liked him in Dear John
and Step Up
What might you have done if you hadn't become a tennis player?
I'd want to be a fashion designer or businesswoman.