Thailand emerging as serious Ashgabat 2017 Tennis contenders
Thailand have emerged as serious medal contenders for the Indoor Tennis competiton to be held at the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat from 17–27 September.
In their final warm-up prior to travelling to the biggest ever sporting event to have been held in Central Asia, the nation dominated proceedings on the court at the South East Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Gold in four of the five disciplines coupled with two silver and three bronze marked Thailand out as the standout performers in the biennial regional event and in perfect form ahead of Ashgabat 2017.
Nicha Lertpitaksinchai and Sanchai Ratiwatana were the standout performers with the pair winning gold in the Mixed Doubles before also emerging from the Women’s and Men’s Doubles respectively with another gold draped around their necks as Thailand continued their supremacy of the sport within South East Asia.
It follows their triumphant tournament in 2015 when the Thais won six out of seven gold medals with team events also included in the tournament with only the Philippines’ Mixed Doubles pair denying them a clean sweep.
This time around it was Indonesia’s Christopher Rungkat, winner of the Men’s Singles ahead of Jirat Navasirisomboon from Thailand, who was the only non-Thai to win any of the five events.
"It was a tough match and I am disappointed that I could not raise my game,” said Jirat after losing 6-4, 6-4 in the final. “But winning silver is not too bad as I only expected a bronze."
Among the Thai winners was Luksika Kumkhum, currently ranked at No. 180 in the world and who decided to play at the SEA Games rather than go through the qualifying rounds of the next Grand Slam event on the professional circuit, the US Open.
"I am very happy because this is my first SEA Games gold medal in the Women's Singles," Luksika, who defeated Anna Clarice Patrimonio from the Philippines 6-0, 6-1 in the final, said.
"I am not disappointed that I missed the chance to play in the US Open qualifying round because I played for my country here.
"The score may indicate it was an easy win for me but it wasn't. This was the first time I played against Anna."
Nicha partnered up with Peangtarn Plipuech in the Women’s Doubles to defeat Luksika and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn in a thrilling all-Thai final that went to a third set, with the Thais prevailing 10-8 after losing the first set 6-1 and claiming the second 6-3.
She then added her second gold of the Games alongside Sanchai to win gold in the Mixed Doubles 6-1, 6-2 against Indonesia’s Rungkat and Jessy Rompies.
Sanchai was also a double gold medallist as he joined up with his twin brother Sonchat to see off Filipino duo Francis Casey Alcantara and Ruben Gonzalez 10-7 in the third set as the Thais laid down a marker as one of the nations to watch in Ashgabat when the Indoor Tennis gets underway on the Opening Ceremony day.