Srichaphan cruises through to first grass-court final

Top seed Paradorn Srichaphan dodged the showers yesterday to race into his first grass court tournament final in the Nottingham Open.

Top seed Paradorn Srichaphan dodged the showers yesterday to race into his first grass court tournament final in the Nottingham Open.

Srichaphan crushed Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-2, 6-2 in just 49 minutes to delight the huge television audience which follows his progress back in Thailand.

The start of the match had twice been delayed by rain. And in the second semi-final, Taylor Dent and Thomas Johansson managed to play just two points before being forced off court by yet another shower.

Srichaphan said: "We were warming up twice and it's nice to finally get it done.

"It's always in the back of your mind that it might rain and I was thinking 'Oh no, not now,' when I served for the match.

"I rushed the first point but managed to win the next four and I'm pleased to get through.

"I felt like I moved really well and I'm hitting the ball well and getting the first break of serve in the first set was the key, it gave me a lot of confidence."

None of Srichaphan's four career titles have come on grass but he reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year before losing to Andy Roddick, and also beat Andre Agassi at the All England Club the year before.

Soderling surprisingly reached the third round at Wimbledon 12 months ago after coming through qualifying, and lost to Tim Henman in straight sets, but never threatened to reproduce that sort of form on an overcast and blustery afternoon.

The young Swede dropped his opening two service games to trail 3-0 quickly, and although he then broke back to reduce the deficit to 3-2, promptly lost the next three games and with it the set.

The second set followed an almost identical pattern, Srichaphan again racing into a 3-0 lead and wrapping up the set 6-2 in just 23 minutes, finishing in style with only his fourth ace as the rain threatened again.

* Anna Kournikova will use American team tennis to keep her eye in while she battles a back injury which is threatening to end her tennis career. The Russian will play "World TeamTennis" for the Kansas City Explorers in a mixed team competition this year. Kournikova has not played a match on the WTA Tour since April 2003 when she retired from her first-round match in Charleston with a back injury.

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