Thailand's Paradorn wins gold to cap successful year

The Star, Malaysia

BUSAN, South Korea (AP) - Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand, who has been charging up in the world rankings, beat South Korean Lee Hyung-taik 7-6 (3), 6-4 Saturday for the Asian Games men's singles tennis gold medal.

In a 1-hour, 43-minute final, the top-seeded Paradorn let a 4-1 lead in the second set slip away before overcoming the local favorite amid jubilant cheers by a small section of Thai supporters in Geumjeong Sports Park stadium.

The capacity crowd of 4,600 joined in the applause as Paradorn folded his hands in a Thai gesture of respect.

The victory added to a successful year in which Paradorn has climbed to 28th in the ATP rankings from outside the top 100.

He beat No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt last week at the Japan Open and Andre Agassi earlier this year at Wimbledon.

Paradorn's victory compensated for his compatriot Tamarine Tanasugarn's loss in the women's singles final on Friday.

A heavy forehand wore down Lee on key points.

The two started by exchanging service breaks in error-filled games.

Paradorn broke again for 4-3 but, serving for the first set at 5-4, ran into more error trouble.

When the set went to a tiebreaker, Paradorn jumped to a 5-0 lead, lost three points, and took the set when Lee netted a forehand.

A break in the second set's second game helped Paradorn take leads of 3-0 and 4-1 before Lee broke back in the seventh game and then held for 4-all.

Serving at 4-5, Lee saved two match points from 0-40 but Paradorn clinched the gold by passing him with a crosscourt shot. - AP