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Paradorn and Hewitt on US Open collision course

Paradorn Srichaphan is on a US Open collision course with Lleyton Hewitt, with the Asian star able to produce his greatest Grand Slam showing if he can overcome his Australian nemesis.

india Updated: Aug 29, 2003 10:15 IST

Thailand's Paradorn Srichaphan is on a US Open collision course with Lleyton Hewitt, with the Asian star able to produce his greatest Grand Slam showing if he can overcome his Australian nemesis.

Paradorn and Hewitt each advanced to the third round of the year's final Slam tournament here Thursday. And while each must win again Saturday to set up a fourth-round meeting Monday, it's a matchup Paradorn is already anticipating.

"Every time we play is a great match," Paradorn said. "I'm looking forward to it. It will be very tough."

Paradorn has lost four of five to Hewitt, his lone triumph coming in last year's Tokyo quarter-finals. The Aussie speedster won in 2001 at Indian Wells and last year at San Jose, Miami and a Paris semi-final.

"Paradorn is a very powerful player," said South Korea's Lee Hyung-Taik, who lost Thursday to Hewitt and has faced Paradorn often. "It all depends on who has the best condition on that day. It will come down to conditioning."

Hewitt, the 2001 US Open and 2002 Wimbledon winner, faces Paradorn in the round of 16 if the Asian star gets past Spanish lucky loser Fernando Ferdasco and he eliminates Czech Radek Stepanek.

After a first-round ouster at Wimbledon and a 5-3 hardcourt mark since, Hewitt was not a Slam top seed for the first time since his title here. But Paradorn does not underestimate the Aussie based on recent results.

"He has been doing great, has been number one for two years," Paradorn said. "It's hard work. You can't play that hard for two years. It's natural (to fall off). No one can play so well a whole two years."

Paradorn ousted Slovakia's Dominik Hrbaty 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in his second-round match, showing no sign of the illness that slowed him in his opener.

The Thai star his 12 aces and 39 winners to overwhelm Hrbaty and level their career rivalry at 2-2. Hrbaty ousted Paradorn in the first round at this year's French Open but Paradorn avenged the loss in the first round at Wimbledon.

Paradorn was againt cheered by the "Sricha-fans", a network of Thais who back their man around US events.

"It's nice to have support out there. You need to keep fighting. You never know how long the match is going to be," Paradorn said.

Paradorn will have the biggest cheers when he plays in the first ATP event in Bangkok later this year.

"It's my dream that one day I could play an ATP tournament in my hometown," he said. "It's going to be nice. Hopefully I'll make a good result."

As the first Asian to crack the ATP Top 10, Paradorn's fame has grown across the continent.

"I'm not just representing Thailand. I represent all Asian countries," said Paradorn. "A lot of people expect me to win every match. I think in a positive way. People want you to win. I try to win it for them."

Having replaced boyhood idol Michael Chang as the top Asian star, Paradorn was philosophical about the legend's retirement here Tuesday.

"I just knew one thing. He looked like me. He was Asian," Paradorn said. "He did great for Asian tennis. It's not easy to make it at that level and he stayed there very long. I'm really proud for him.

"Finally he had to retire. The new wave is coming up. That's the way it is."

First Published: Aug 29, 2003 10:15 IST