Five top-20 players led by world No 5 David Ferrer and Milos Raonic will play the World Tennis Thailand Championship, in Hua Hin from December 31st to January 2nd. Ferrer, a 21-time winner on the ATP Tour, and world No 8 Raonic, boasting one of the fastest serves in the game, will be joined by No 7 Thomas Berdych of the Czech Republic, No 14 John Isner of the US, No 17 Fabio Fognini of Italy and No 22 Richard Gasquet of France in the sixplayer exhibition at the Centennial Park Hua Hin. The friendly tournament, with a US$2 million budget, will replace the Thailand Open, which was scrapped last year due to lack of spectator interest.
Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand (LTAT) president Suwat Liptapanlop believes the new format will suit the taste of Thai fans who want to see star players in a shorter format. Suwat said the Hua Hin exhibition would be used to promote tennis in Thailand as well as boost tourism and the local economy. “We want to continue promoting tennis locally. The Thailand Open, which we first organised in 2003 and featured super stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray and the Hua Hin World Tennis Invitation featuring Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki are examples of the work we did to promote the sport,” said Suwat. Revealing the competition format, Suwat said the top two seeds will receive bye on Day 1, when a special match between Berdych and a Thai Davis Cup player will be played.
The second day will feature the semi-finals and a play-off between the first-day losers. January 2, the final day, will see the final and the thirdplace match. Match-winners will receive US$10,000, while the champion will take home $40,000. Suwat said players would also be invited to take part in cultural activities such as giving alms to monks on New Year’s day, cooking lessons on Thai specialities like tom yum koong (spicy shrimp soup), visiting the Baan Khao Tao handicraft royal project and stopping by at the Vana Nava Hua Hin Water Jungle.
The LTAT will also use this opportunity to sharpen the skills of local Davis Cup players, who will practise with the six players. Thailand will play host to South Korea in the Davis Cup zone Asia/Oceania Qualifying Group I first round tie in February. The Hua Hun event will be televised live on True 2, True HD670 and Digital TV Channel 24. Tickets at 1,500-6,000 THB can be purchased at Thai Ticket Major, Siam Continental Hua Hin Hotel and all Major Cineplex branches.