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Paradorn hoping to crack top 30

New York: Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan, Asia’s first ATP winner in four years, plans to crack the top 30 in world rankings by the end of the year with hopes of joining a new set of Asian stars on the global sports stage.

Srichaphan won the first ATP crown by a Thai player on Sunday at Long Island, the first for an Asian since India’s Leander Paes in 1998.

“If I could, I would like to be in the top 30 before the end of the year,” Srichaphan said. “I have continuously reset my goals this year so it be would a logical progression.”

Srichaphan, 23, defeated former world No. 1 Andre Agassi in the second round at Wimbledon and was a finalist two weeks ago at Washington.

The Thai star began the year ranked 115th and reached a career-best 41st this week.

Calling his victory over Agassi the “breaking point”, he said: “I grew in confidence after that. It made me realise I could compete with the best.”

Srichaphan could join a growing set of Asian sports stars in US venues that includes Japan’s Ichiro Suzuki in baseball, Chinese centre Yao Ming in Basketball and golfers K.J. Choi and Se Ri Pak of South Korea and Shigeki Maruyama of Japan.

Asian-American tennis star Michael Chang was Srichaphan’s boyhood idol. Now the legend marvels at the newcomer and his breakthrough title.

“It only can help tennis in Asia, particularly in Thailand,” Chang said after a first-round victory on Monday. “Paradorn is a great guy, very well-mannered, hits the ball very hard.”

Chang also expects to see more Asians develop into title threats on the men and women’s tours.

“There have been a lot more Asians making their way in the juniors,” Chang said. “It’s really great to see. It would be nice to have a few more Asians playing and doing well.”

Srichaphan could launch that generation of talent, especially if the young players follow his example of physical workouts.

“I have been focussing more on the physical aspect,” he said. “I have been building my lower body and all of this is paying off. As a result my body feels looser.”

Chanachai Srichaphan, Paradorn’s father and coach, has also brought along his sons Thanakorn and Naratorn, who join their brother as Davis Cup players.

The coach has worked on Paradorn’s mental and physical game.

“He is hitting the ball cleaner now and with much more consistency,” the father said. “We have also made a few changes technically. He has a much earlier preparation now and it allows him to stay more consistent during the points.”

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