Published on August 7, 2007
A strong line-up that includes Danai Udomchoke and the Ratiwatana twins, make Thailand strong favourites in tennis when the Universiade starts this week.
The trio, who are all studying law, have the best CVs among all the players going into the competition. Danai has reached a career high No 77 in the ATP rankings this January and Sonchat and Sanchai are currently at No 91 and 95 in the doubles.
Danai, who is No 106 on the ATP computer this week, will be the top seed and heavy favourite in the singles event. The whole country will be rooting for him to duplicate his success at the Doha Asiad where he stunned the field to produce a gold medal.
In theory, Danai should cruise to the top as his rivals are well outside the top 300. However in a practical sense, the torn ligaments on his left knee sustained during his tour of North America means that he will be in for a long struggle.
"The doctor said it was quite serious and I might have to wear a cast throughout the tournament. I have had ultrasound and massage treatment and started training again today [Monday],'' said Danai, who upset former world No 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain for a spot in the Australian Open third round, his best performance in a Grand Slam event this year.
The injury forced him to retire during the opening match in a challenger event in Vancouver last week. However, the physical pain and a dismal 1-4 record in his last five matches will not stop him from making his debut in the Universiade.
"I have no plan to withdraw from the Games and have nothing to lose because I'm not 100 per cent now. People expect a lot from me but it all depends on my knee,'' said Danai, a student of Bangkok University.
Sonchat and Sanchai, on the contrary, are healthy and are enjoying one of their best seasons. Two back-to-back semi-finals in Newport and Los Angeles on the ATP tour plus a challenger trophy in Granby Canada, over the past four weeks makes them optimistic of their chances.
"We are fully focused and we want nothing but the gold. We are playing tennis at a level which is good enough to win,'' said Sonchat, who won a bronze medal along with his brother in the 2005 Games in Izmir, Turkey.
While Thailand have a stellar field in the men's, Taiwan have fielded a superb squad in the women's category. Chan Yung-jan, ranked 65, Hsieh Su-wei , the No 119, Chan Chin-wei, No 198 and Chuang Chia-jung, who reached the Australian Open final with Chan this year, are touted to run through their opposition at the LTAT National Tennis Centre.
The local team, without Tamarine Tanasugarn, will rely on Nudnida Luangnam, Suchanan Viratprasert, Montinee Tangphong and Nappaporn Tongsalee. Five gold medals - men's and women's singles, men's and women's and mixed doubles are up for grabs in the Games
The Nation .