MARCH OF PARADORN
Thai star in quarters as Danai falls
Paradorn Srichaphan makes a return to Mikhail Ledovskikh during their second-round match yesterday.
[Tennis]Four seeded stars, including local big hope Paradorn Srichaphan, paraded into today's quarter-finals as Danai Udomchoke crashed out of the Thailand Open.
Third-seeded James Blake of the United States, American seventh-seeded Robby Ginepri, the eighth-seeded Paradorn and female fans' favourite Marat Safin successfully cleared their second round matches.
Paradorn found a mid-match resistance from hard-hitting Mikhail Ledovskikh of Russia, ranked 276 in the world, but relied on his vast experience to come through in a three setter 6-4 5-7 6-2 in front of enthusiastic fans at the Impact Arena.
A thrilled Paradorn claimed that he would rather win the Thailand Open than a Grand Slam because it is special to lift a trophy in front of adoring home fans.
Paradorn's victory was a good compensation for the crowd, which had to witness the departure of Danai Udomchoke following his straight set defeat at the hands of American seventh-seeded Robby Ginepri 6-3 6-3.
"It's difficult to play someone I've never seen before. He hit flat balls which made it difficult for me. I also felt a bit stiff,'' said Paradorn, who has never lost before the quarter-finals since the tournament started in 2003. He meets Tim Henman, his toughest assignment by far in this tournament.
"Although Tim is ranked below me, he has bigger experience. He will attack at the net and pressurise me all the time. I will play my best and will be happy with the result,'' added Paradorn, who said he had no one special to support him for the first time in four years.
Henman survived some fierce counter attack from countryman Alex Bogdanovic to advance with a 6-3 5-7 6-1 win. He had already beaten compatriot Andy Murray on Wednesday.
"He didn't play like he was No 148. He played like he was No 70 in the world. "He took a few more risks on the groundstrokes and made few unforced errors. But I feel good physically and remained aggressive in the third set,'' said the former British No 1.
While Danai put the American to the test in three sets last year in the first round, he could not pose much of a threat to Georgia-based player yesterday. Ginepri was more solid with his groundstrokes and unleashed 14 aces, to only four from the Thai.
"I had a day off while he has been playing a lot of tennis since the Davis Cup and might have felt tired. I tossed the balls and served well and felt good out there,'' said Ginepri, who will play top seed Ivan Ljubicic should the Croatian move past German Benjamin Becker.
"It will be tough. We have never played. We will try to figure out how to play each other in the first set. He has good serves,'' said Ginepri who has found his place in the quarter-final for the second straight year.
Danai found himself on the defence most of the time throughout the match. The American took solid control with his lightning-fast groundstrokes and big serves.
"I played OK but Ginepri deserved the credit for playing perfect tennis. I had break points but he served well to save them all. My serves really let me down today as he returned so well,'' said Danai who will play the Japan Open next week.
Russian Giant Marat Safin was taken to three sets before advancing past stubborn Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (7-3) 6-2.
"It was a difficult match. He ran all over the court and returned all my serves. I didn't want to get into trouble in the third set and I tried to play aggressively,'' said Safin who will play German Mischa Zverev in the quarter-finals.
Zverev, the conqueror of Juan Carlos Ferrero in round one, maintained his giant-killing form by beating former top 10 player Rainer Schuettler 7-6 (9-7) 7-5.
Third-seeded James Blake stemmed the run of lucky loser Benjamin Balleret of Monaco 6-3 6-2. He spent less than an hour wrapping up the match.
"My form is good so far. I'm happy with the way I am playing and hope to continue like this. Actually I came here without many expectations. I came from Russia with Marat after the Davis Cup. But I enjoy playing on hard court, I feel more confident,'' he said.
In the doubles first round, Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana went down to American Eric Butorac and Travis Parrot (USA) 6-3 6-4.
Meanwhile, Thailand is drawn to face Taiwan in the away tie in the first round of the Davis CUp ZOne Asia/Oceania which will take place from February 9 to 11 next year.
Thailand is seeded first in the zone. The country was relegated back to the regional competition after losing to Germany 1-4 in the World Group Play-offs last week in Dusseldorf.