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Asean & Global Updates
POSTED | 12:47 PM | 03-10-2015

Djokovic and Nadal mix tennis with politics in Bangkok

Two of the world’s top tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, came to Bangkok to earn a few million dollars for an exhibition match. But there were a few strings attached. 

Before their Friday night match, Djokovic and Nadal swapped tennis clothes for formal Thai silk jackets in baby blue and pastel yellow. The dress code was part of a tightly scripted trip meant to boost military-ruled Thailand’s image, which included a meeting with the junta leader, The Associated Press reported on Saturday (3 Oct 2015).

One of the day’s many photo opportunities was at the Erawan Shrine, the site of a deadly bombing in August, where the players laid wreaths and posed for pictures under tight security and a pelting rain.

The No.1-ranked Djokovic and his longtime rival Nadal were playing a sold-out exhibition match dubbed “Back to Thailand.” The event was organized by local authorities to boost confidence in the country’s safety after the bombing that left 20 people dead and more than 120 injured.

The Lawn Tennis Association of Thailand, an organizer of the event, said the players would receive a total of 150 million baht ($4.1 million) for coming to Thailand.

Not bad for playing a best-of-three-set match scheduled to last two hours. When Djokovic won the US Open after two weeks of intense tennis and a grueling four-set final against Roger Federer, his prize money was $3.3 million.

One requirement for the easy money in Thailand, apparently, was the dress code, said The Associated Press. The players were outfitted in traditional silk jackets in colors of respect for the country’s monarchy. Djokovic wore yellow -- the color that represents the king of Thailand -- and Nadal wore blue, in respect for the queen.

In their formal attire, the players visited the ornate Grand Palace and then met with the junta leader, Prayut Chan-ocha, who led a May 2014 coup that overthrew an elected government and then installed himself as prime minister.

“I’m glad that two of the world’s best tennis players are here in Thailand,” Prayut told the US Open champion and the No.7-ranked Nadal during a meeting at his office.

“This will get more people to come to Thailand,” Prayut added, as he shook hands with each player and they exchanged gifts.

Thailand’s vital tourism industry has grappled with how to overcome the bad publicity of the 2014 coup followed by the August bombing, in the heart of Bangkok, which police say was linked to China’s Muslim Uighur minority, said AP.

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