Clemson University

Clemson's former coach follows Thai run

COLUMBIA -- Former Clemson tennis coach Chuck Kriese may have a Grand Slam challenger on his hands -- and he hasn't even arrived at his new office in Thailand.

Kriese said Wednesday he, along with the five Thai players and coaches who've joined him at his home near Clemson this summer, were enthralled by the Wimbledon run of Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn. Tanasugarn became the country's first to reach quarterfinals at The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club.

Kriese, 58, had spent more than three decades coaching tennis at Clemson. He recently accepted dual roles as Thailand's national coach and Southeast Asia's technical tennis director.

Former Thai touring pro Napaporn Tongsalee, staying with Kriese and his family this summer, had played doubles with Tanasugarn and was texting her old partner during her Wimbledon run.

"Everyone was excited about it," Kriese said.

The 60th-ranked Tanasugarn, 31, upset second-seeded Jelena Jankovic to reach the final eight at Wimbledon after losing in the fourth round six previous times.

The run ended Tuesday when defending champion Venus Williams prevailed, 6-4, 6-3.

Kriese said Tanasugarn's success should bring all aspiring Thai players hope. "That's what we're all devoid of and what we need the most," he said.

Kriese has spent the past few weeks tutoring three Thai coaches and two players who have arrived since late May. He's also been heavily involved in his annual summer tennis camps, along with preparing a family of five -- wife Claire and three preschool children -- for the move to Bangkok.

Kriese recently found out the ATP's Thailand Open will start Sept. 22, meaning he'll have to leave the United States right after the U.S. Open. Kriese thought he would have more time for the transition.

Once he arrives, Kriese hopes he'll have more than Tanasugarn's success to build on.

Soon, the Thai doubles team of brothers Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, 47th in the world in the latest rankings, will find out if they will qualify for the Beijing Olympics, Kriese said. Several younger Thai players will try and qualify for the U.S. Open, the year's final Grand Slam.

Kriese thinks it's just a matter of time before average tennis fans hear a lot more from Tanasugarn and her countrymates.

"Southeast Asia is getting ready to explode" in tennis, he said.