Svitolina sets sights on Hua Hin title
Organisers say venue safe for players, fans
World No.4 Elina Svitolina is aiming to win the GSB Thailand Open in Hua Hin on her first trip to the resort town.
The Ukrainian star, the highest-ranked player in the field in the WTA Tour event, arrived in the country on Monday and went straight to Hua Hin.
Her arrival is a boost for the organisers after Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, one of the main attractions of the tournament, withdrew from the Hua Hin event, which started on Monday, due to an injury.
Svitolina, 25, played in a promotional event on the see-through rooftop of the Holiday Inn Resort Vana Nava Hua Hin on Monday.
"I felt excited playing tennis on the rooftop of a building for the first time. It's a new experience. I have been to Samui but this is my first time in Hua Hin, which is a beautiful town," the top seed said.
"My aim is to win the tournament."
Other stars in the tournament at True Arena Hua Hin include world No.15 and second seed Petra Martic from Croatia and No.27 Wang Qiang of China who stunned Serena Williams in the third round of the Australian Open last month.
Tamarine Tanasugarn, Thailand's most successful female player, will compete in the doubles.
The organisers have sprayed the venue with environmental friendly products to alleviate coronavirus fears.
"We want to show to the world that Thailand is safe after the coronavirus outbreak [in China]," said Suwat Liptapanlop, chief adviser of the organising committee.
"We want to tell foreigners that they can come to Thailand because this is a safe place."
He added that Bouchard's withdrawal had nothing to do with the coronavirus issue.
In Monday's action, world No.690 Patcharin Cheapchandej of Thailand lost 6-0, 6-3 to Switzerland's world No.283 Leonie Kung.
China's Zheng Saisai beat Natalija Kostic of Serbia 7-6 (6), 6-0, You Xiaodi of China beat Ellen Perez of Australia 7-6 (4), 6-2, and Storm Sanders from Australia beat Ulrikke Eikeri from Norway 6-3, 6-4.
Four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters announced on Sunday she will return after seven years in retirement at the WTA tournament in Dubai starting on Feb 17.
The 36-year-old former world No.1, who hung up her racquet after the 2012 US Open, said: "I am so thrilled to be returning to the court.
"I'm impatient to resume this sport which I love, in front of the fans."
The Belgian described as "extraordinary" the support she'd received since announcing her return in September. A knee issue scuppered Clijsters' planned return at last month's Australian Open. bangkok post/afp