The Upper Reach Team interviewed Mr. Suwat Liptapanlop, President of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand to introduce this friendly tournament, with a $2 million budget, that replaces the Thailand Open. He explained the reasons of the creation of this exhibition and discussed its advantages to promote the district of Hua Hin through tourism and sport.
Tennis is not the most famous sport in Thailand, but I would like to know, from your experience, what is the development of tennis in Thailand in the last years? Have you seen a bit more interest in tennis? How do you envision this?
The Lawn Tennis association of Thailand has over 80 years. The most popular sport in Thailand is football. I think tennis is the 4th or 5th favorite sport. Sometimes people in Thailand find it difficult to understand tennis and its scoring system. However, tennis is more popular now because about 10 years ago, one of our players, Paradorn Srichaphan, was the first Asian player in the top ranking – he was number nine. He became a hero, so people started watching all his matches. Also, we have a lady, Tamarine Tanasugarn, who is part of the world 30th top ranking and became very popular too. That was around 10 years ago.
I would like to ask you about the Thailand Open that was cancelled because of lack of interest and how, then, you had the idea of the new tournament.
When Paradorn became popular, we started having the Thailand Open, world tournament ATP 250. Many top-line players came here to play and people followed the tournament. Tourism is very important for Thailand and I think sport and tourism can go together because now everybody in the world watches sports. Many people are fans who follow their sport heroes. Moreover, even if people do not come here, but they watch the marches played in Thailand on TV, they learn about this country and this is good for tourism and, thus, for our economy. This is why we organized the tournament and we decided to hold it in the most touristic cities. Every big touristic city in the world holds an important tournament, and we thought about Hua Hin.
Can you explain the format of this tournament?
For this World Tennis Thailand Championship we only invited six star players who are in the top-twenty ranking. Now, from Thailand, there are more women in the top ranking than men. I think the future of Thai tennis is for women. Regarding men, we have a gap now.
During the tournament, apart from playing tennis, the players are invited to visit Hua Hin, which is a way of promoting the area. For next year’s tournament, are you going to keep on expanding the tournament? Are you going to keep the same format as this year? Was it successful?
We have to improve the character of the tournament to attract more people. We have to analyze the feedback and improve in the direction of the requirements of the fans.
Do think more local sponsors will be interested in sponsoring the event in the next years?
Even though the economy is not good, for this tournament we spent nearly $2 million. We got support from the private sector, from the sponsors. And they are happy because the event was international, the players were top rank and the feedback was very good. So I think next year there will be more support.
How would you like to see this tournament in four or five years’ time?
It would be great to have one of the big ATPs in Thailand – ATP 250 or ATP 500.
Would you need more money for better infrastructure?
Yes, but infrastructure would be the cheapest investment. We need more money for a big advertizing campaign. We need to make our tournament more attractive. Our country has a lot to offer. People should enjoy Thai culture, our food, learn to cook it.