LVH exclusive - Thailand Tennis Open draws big hitters

Since local Thai star Paradorn Srichaphan reached the quarter finals back in 2003, The Thailand Open has been attracting top flight players to Bangkok to battle it out at the capital's Impact Arena in front of adoring fans and court-side enthusiasts for the honour of lifting the silver plate. Previous winners include Roger Federer, who has claimed the title twice, reigning Olympic champion Andy Murray, and ATP World Tour winner James Blake.

This year's event, which tales place from 22 – 30 September, marks the 10th anniversary of the tournament, and the singles action will feature 28 players competing against each other in a tight field that includes a number of household names, as well as more than a few rising stars of the game.

The impressive line-up includes Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, ranked world number 9, as well as French stars Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, as well as Spanish crowd favourite Fernando Verdasco. They will be joined by a number of bright new players on the ATP Tour, including 21-year old Grigor Dimitrov from Bulgaria, who reached the quarter finals in 2011 and earlier this year in South Africa became the first Bulgarian who reach a semifinal of ATP level tournament. Also playing is the even younger Bernard Tomic, 19, the German born Australian player who as a junior won the 2008 Australian Open, aged just 15, the youngest player in the tournament's history to do so.

The Thailand Open tournament has showcased some classic matches in the past, including Murray's first ATP tour final, in which he pushed Roger Federer all the way in a hard fought match that set the stage for eventual victories that have hit the headlines this year. 2008 also brought tennis superstar Rafael Nadal to Bangkok, who was defeated in the semi-final by his fellow countryman Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in three sets. This year the depth of talent in the line-up means it will be very difficult to predict the winner, but there are sure to be plenty of close and thrilling matches to keep the crowds on the edge of their seats.

A total of 13 countries are represented at the Thailand Open tournament this year and with prize money totalling more than $600,000, there's plenty to play for in both the singles and doubles contest. The matches will be divided into morning and evening sessions, and the official draw ceremony will be held on Level 3 at Impact Arena at 2pm on Saturday September 22, which is open for spectators to watch.

Tennis has long been a popular sport in Thailand. In fact, King Prapokklao Rama VII founded the first Lawn Tennis Association back in 1926. Young Thai's are still keen on the sport today and there is a strong belief that another Paradorn will soon emerge to challenge the world's global names. Visitors to the Kingdom can also find plenty of quality courts around the country to play on, and an increasing number of rental villas also come with their own private tennis courts, making it possible to watch the Thailand Open by the beach, then head off to emulate the stars in a friendly game with friends.