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Suwat Liptapanlop

THAILAND - Tourism

Grass Roots

President, Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand

Bio

Suwat Liptapanlop was born in 1955 in Ratchaburi Province and studies Civil Engineering at Kasetsart University before going on to study Transportation at Purdue University in the US. He has held a number of high government positions, starting as Deputy Minister of Transport and Communication in 1990, with other positions having included Minister of Science, Technology and Environment, Minister of Industry, Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Justice. He is currently the President of the Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand as well as the Rajabhat Nakhon Rachasima University Council.

"I hope that our women players will move to the highest level in the world of tennis."

Do you have plans to bring the ATP tournament back to Thailand in the future?

We used to have an ATP tournament, the Thailand Open, for 10 years, where the likes of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, and Murray, the top four players in the world, would come to play. The tournament did not belong to the organizer in Thailand as it had to be leased. To host the tournament, it needed more sponsors and the organizer made a loss each year. Although there was a financial loss, there was a gain in terms of image for the country. When you think about Thailand, you think of a tourist destination; therefore, if you can bring top sporting players here for televised exhibitions or competitions, it is good PR. The players enjoyed Thailand when they came here and have great comments about the country, the shopping, and the culture. Their experiences were excellent for the promotion of the country and help potential investment. However, during the last two years it became more difficult to get the top players to come and get help from the sponsors; therefore, we stopped the Thailand Open. If we can get the ATP back again we would be very interested. We currently have one ATP level lower than the ATP 250, which is called the ATP challenger 125. The ranking of the players is between 50 and 200, which is good for ASEAN players.

You recently brought Nadal and Djokovic to Thailand. What has this done for developing local talent?

That was a great success from a sporting perspective. To have the world number one and have two Grand Slam champions playing in Thailand meant bringing the idols of our young tennis players to them. They inspire the junior players that want to grow up to become champions and, in terms of sport, it demonstrates our ability to manage a world-class tennis tournament. It shows that we can manage the light, sound, and television broadcasting in our own stadium. Our stadium was built more than 50 years ago, and we brought it back with Nadal and Djokovic. The world could see that Thailand has excellent infrastructure for sports. In addition to raising the sporting profile of the country, these events were beneficial in terms of PR and confidence. Both of them went to the market and there were many programs showing that Thailand is a prime tourist destination. They visited the Prime Minister at Government House and got to experience all aspects of Thai culture. It proved that sport is not only about sport, but economics, investment, and tourism.

To what extent do you think it is necessary for Thailand to have its own sports stars?

A decade ago, we had the world’s number nine tennis player, Paradorn Srichaphan. After his success, Paradorn became a tennis idol in Thailand. We need a new hero to be an inspiration and idol for sport in Thailand. Thailand now has the chance to build some of the best tennis players in the world. For Asian men, the structure, height, and physique of the upper body tend to be different than their European counterparts. For the ladies, the height and physique is nearly the same; therefore, they are more competitive with Europeans. We have many female junior rising stars in the world top 1,000, and we want to support them as our aim is for them to reach the top 10. They are 14 to 17 years old so now is the crucial age. I believe that Thailand will be successful in terms of women’s tennis within the next two years. We are working together with the public companies, corporations, and state enterprise to support these players.

What are your expectations for the association and for the sport in 2016?

I hope to have more international tournaments in Thailand and to have more international tennis players coming to play in Thailand. I hope that our women players will move to the highest level in the world of tennis. We believe that Thai women have more of an edge than the men in terms of physical structure.

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