| Thai rise: Paradorn Srichaphan with the trophy after beating Karol Kucera in the final of the Chennai Open on Sunday. (AFP)
Chennai: Thailand’s Paradorn Srichaphan made a perfect start to the year by winning the ATP Tata Indian Open on Sunday, beating Slovakia’s Karol Kucera 6-3, 6-1.
The 23-year-old from Bangkok, ranked 16th in the world, did not drop a set in the $400,000 tournament to capture his third title in less than five months.
Srichaphan, named “Thai of the Year” ahead of several pop stars and politicians by a survey in his country last month, took his maiden ATP title in Long Island last August and then won in Stockholm in October.
The second seed needed just 69 minutes to see off Kucera, a former world No. 6 who is looking to get back to his best this season. The Slovak is currently 83rd in the world.
Paradorn, who jumped 110 places in the world ranking last season, had lost to Argentine Guillermo Canas in the final here last year.
“I started last year very well by making the final here,” the Thai said after pocketing the $54,000 winner’s purse. “This year, I’ve started even better by winning. Maybe it’s some sort of a sign.”
Srichaphan, coached by his father Chanachai Srichaphan, recorded wins over many top-10 players last year including current world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia.
“I didn’t expect to do this well in the tournament. I just thought I’ll come and play my game but I didn’t even lose a set. It’s really great, especially since it’s my first title in Asia.”
Srichaphan survived two break points in the fourth game of the first set as Kucera took the early initiative with some well-measured pushes from the baseline. But the Thai took control after that, coming up with some booming serves and putting pressure on Kucera’s serve by chipping and charging.
Srichaphan broke in the seventh game and again in the ninth to close out the first set. He then powered through the second, closing out the match with a backhand down-the-line winner.
“Last time when I played this final, I was a little nervous because it was my first,” Paradorn said. “Now I’ve already played in five finals, and so I went out there totally relaxed. I just wanted to enjoy myself.”
For Kucera, who made his first final since winning on the indoor carpet in Basel in 1999, it was a sign that things would get better for him on the tour.
“I played well this week, but he was just too good today in the final. I didn’t have a chance,” the 28-year-old said.
Srichaphan plays next week in Sydney, where he is the seventh seed, and then goes to Melbourne for the Australian Open starting on January 13.
“My target for this year is to break into the top-10,” he said.
Earlier, German Michael Kohlmann combined with Austria’s Julian Knowle to win the doubles title, beating Czech pair Frantisek Cermak and Leos Friedl 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (7-3) after eliminating India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Australian Todd Woodbridge in the semi-finals.
The keenly-contested match saw booming serves and brilliant winners. The two pairs reserved their best for the tie-breakers in both sets after 22 of the 24 games went on serve. The winners were richer by $26,550, while the Czech pair collected $15,630.
In both tie-breakers the Austrian-German pair played better and looked under no pressure. The Czech pair struggled to break their rivals. Cermak and Friedl held the edge in the second set, breaking Knowle in the eighth game. But they got back a dose of their own medicine in the next game when Friedl was broken. (Agencies)