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[SPORTS] Another star from the East - Tennis Star Paradorn Srichaphan

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  • chiayuan25
    Another star from the East By Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer Tuesday, September 2, 2003 NEW YORK -- Catholics could aspire to be president of the
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 10, 2003
      Another star from the East
      By Karen Crouse, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
      Tuesday, September 2, 2003

      NEW YORK -- Catholics could aspire to be president of the United
      States, but before John F. Kennedy came along they thought, forget
      it.

      African-Americans could aspire to be leading ladies in Hollywood, but
      before Dorothy Dandridge came along they thought, yeah, right.

      It's huge to be able to put a face to the dream. How else are people
      supposed to recognize their potential?

      A 9-year-old in Bangkok watched the telecast of Michael Chang
      defeating Stefan Edberg in the 1989 French Open final and
      thought, "Hey, he looks just like me." On that day Paradorn
      Srichaphan's career path came into sharp focus.

      "He's the one that (made) me think if he can do it, I can do it,"
      Srichaphan said the other day.

      Srichaphan, the No. 11 seed at the U.S. Open, recently became the
      first Asian to crack the global tennis top 10. His ascension would be
      considered astonishing if it didn't dovetail nicely with Yao Ming's
      debarkation in the NBA and Ichiro Suzuki's and Hideki Matsui's
      alighting in major-league base and Grace Park and Se Ri Pak and
      Candie Kung excelling on the LPGA Tour and K.J. Choi winning on the
      PGA Tour.

      Far from being an advance soldier in the global war for athletic
      superiority, Srichaphan is in the vanguard of a movement that's
      creating a continental drift in sports. The writing is in sport's
      alphabet soup:

      Asia is rising.

      You can't have an awakening without w-a-i. After his fourth-round
      match against Lleyton Hewitt -- it was postponed because of rain
      Monday and will be played today, weather permitting -- Srichaphan
      will cup his hands in prayer and bow to all sides of the court.

      It is a Buddhist gesture of humility and respect. Like his strapping
      serve, it comes second nature to Srichaphan. Ask anybody on the ATP
      tour -- Ivan Ljubicic, even -- and he'll tell you: In addition to
      being among the most powerful players, Srichaphan also is among the
      most pleasant.

      The truth is, he's sweeter than Thai iced coffee.

      "You won't find a nicer guy," said Srichaphan's sometimes doubles
      partner Andy Roddick, to whom Srichaphan lost in the final at
      Indianapolis last month.

      The 24-year-old is careful how he acts because he knows somewhere
      there are 9-year-olds watching. Srichaphan's poise and play in the
      past 20 months hasn't gone unnoticed by corporate suits in the West.

      Chevrolet and Adidas know a ticket into the Asian market when they
      see one; both have enlisted Srichaphan as a spokesman.

      "I'm not just representing Thailand," Srichaphan said. "I feel that
      I'm representing all of Asia, especially Asian tennis."

      He is the Tiger Woods of his homeland, turning the country of 60
      million people on to his sport in numbers too large to ignore.
      Rackets are flying off the shelves like soccer balls or boxing gloves
      and the ATP Tour has added Bangkok to its itinerary.

      If Srichaphan isn't a household name in the U.S., then shame on us.
      SREE-sha-pan should be like a piece of candied ginger that dissolves
      on our tongues.

      In a 2002 public opinion poll, Srichaphan was named Thai of the Year.
      If he were to win the title here, he'd be a lock for Thai of the
      Millennium.

      With the attention comes more tension. No amount of competitive
      stress can wipe the smile off his face. Nothing short of tsunami
      could do that.

      If Srichaphan looks as tranquil as a sleeping child on the court,
      there's a reason. He's as centered as centrifugal force.

      "Of course, a lot of people are expecting me to win every match,"
      Srichaphan said. "You know, that's good that the people want you to
      win. I put it this way: I try to win for them."

      In the final Open tuneup, at Long Island, Srichaphan picked up his
      fourth career ATP title and a sore throat. So far his game hasn't
      shown any coarseness. Srichaphan is the hottest player not named
      Roddick, having won his past eight matches.

      Srichaphan never has reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. He'll
      need to marshal all his grace and gifts to get past Hewitt. The 2001
      Open champion has defeated Srichaphan four of the five times they've
      played.

      It doesn't matter who he's playing. Srichaphan's strategy never
      changes. "I try to go out there and have fun, you know, and try to
      perform," he said.

      Whatever he's doing, it's working. Srichaphan had a whole continent
      at hello.

      karen_crouse@...

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