Bangkok: Paradorn Srichaphan may fast be winning superstar status across Asia but he has no plans to turn his back on his roots.
Asked if he intended to hire a professional coach now that he had reached 11th in the world, the Thai insisted he was happy to stick with his father Chanachai who gave up a banking job to coach his son when Paradorn showed promise as a child on the tennis court.
“He’s the one who got me here and I think he’s doing great,” Paradorn, 24, said in an interview ahead of the first Thailand Open next week.
“Dad and son — sometimes we just look each other in the eyes and I know what he’s thinking and he knows what I’m thinking.”
With his tracksuited father watching over him, Paradorn has charmed tennis fans around the world with his Thai ‘wai’ greeting — putting his hands together and bowing to the crowd at the end of each match.
He has also caught the imagination with his superstitions, pulling on a ‘lucky’ red shirt when attempting to close out a match and using the same changing cubicle throughout a tournament. Organisers of the inaugural Thailand Open, which starts on Monday in Bangkok, have urged fans to turn out in red to show their support for Asia’s top player.
“This is like my dream to have an ATP tournament in Thailand so I’d like to do well here,” said Paradorn, who was 120th in the world rankings less than two years ago. “It’s nice to hear a lot of people are following my results and cheering for me every time I play a match.”
Having reached the last 16 at Wimbledon and the US Open, Paradorn is now looking to do well enough in the remaining six ATP tournaments in 2003 to make it into the top eight who qualify for the year-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Houston.
Paradorn is concentrating on the mental side of his game and says meditation every night helps him to sleep and concentrate better.
“My parents always say: ‘If your body’s tired but your mind still keeps going, you can make it back’,” Paradorn said. “You really need it in your life and you really need it in tennis. Buddhism is my religion and it keeps me calm, keeps me relaxed in a tight match.”
Thailand is gripped by Paradorn-mania and newspapers are full of reports that the player is going out with a 20-year-old Thai model who has also been linked with the son of multi-millionaire Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. “We’re just dating but I’m not set with anyone yet,” Paradorn said. “Maybe in a year or two years, I’d like to have somebody who really understands me... travelling with me sometimes and having a family.”