World No 1 Caroline Wozniacki will square off with No 3 Victoria Azarenka in Hua Hin on New Year’s day, in a charity match to raise funds for flood victims that will also feature Paradorn Srichaphan and American biggun John Ishner.
The Dane, who has been the women’s No 1 for the last two years, will return to the beach resort 12 months after losing there to Kim Clijsters in an exhibition match. The World Tennis Charity Invitation is due at 5pm on January 1 at the Hua Hin Centennial Park, and will be televised live by ESPN.
“I had a fantastic time in Thailand last year and it is a pleasure to be able to come back again,’’ said Wozniacki, the winner of 18 career titles. “I have seen some of the pictures of the terrible floods and I am delighted to be a part of the tournament and raising money for flood relief.”
Rumour has it that the world No 1 might be accompanied by her boyfriend and world golf No 2 Rory McIlroy who is due to play the Thailand Golf Championships two weeks before the charity event.
The women’s singles showdown will be followed by the return of former world No 9 Paradorn Srichaphan to the tennis court. Having retired in 2010 due to a wrist injury, the former Thai ace will play the 18th ranked Isner who is known for huge serves as well as his height – 2.06 metres.
“I have practised with him a couple of times. He is a very nice guy. His game is based on serves which is fine with me as I’m not fit enough to stay in long rallies,’’ said the 32-yearold Paradorn.
“I still have a month to prepare for the match. You will still see a power game from me. But what’s more important is that we are delighted to be part of this charity effort. Also, this is a good opportunity to show the world that Thailand is now recovering from the flooding crisis,’’ added Paradorn.
Suwat Liptapanlop, president of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand, said proceeds from the estimated Bt6 million in ticket sales will go to flood relief. Tickets for the 3,000seat Centennial Park will be Bt2,000. Suwat added that all the players would be involved in promotional activities to boost local tourism.
“Wozniacki will arrive on December 26, Isner and Azarenka on December 29. They will be doing activities such as cooking Thai food, giving alms to monks or having spa treatments,’’ said Suwat who revealed that Bt20 million will be spent in organising the exhibition match.
Azarenka will make her first appearance in the Kingdom. The Belarusian has won eight WTA titles, three this year. “I am really pleased to come and play for the Thai fans and help raise money to assist the millions of people affected by the devastating floods.”
Since September, many provinces in Thailand including some parts of Bangkok have been hit by the worst floods in half a century.