...once her tennis career is over.
Rezai just wants to enjoy her game
, The Jakarta Post , Nusa Dua, Bali | Sun, 11/08/2009 2:22 PM | Sports
Aravane Rezai is one of the few Muslim players on the women's tennis tour. With her commitment to the sport she loves, there are some things in the practice of her religion that she is putting off until a later day.
"I'm a Muslim and I respect a lot of things. And I try to do what I have to do, and respect what I have to. But there are some things that I can't do now, like covering my head," Rezai, 22, said before her semifinal on Saturday at the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.
She added that she does not rule out the possibility of wearing the headscarf, ".later in my life, after my tennis career is over."
Born in St. Etienne, France, to parents of Iranian descent, she holds dual French-Iranian citizenship. As a teenager she - played for her parents' homeland in the Islamic Solidarity Games in Tehran in 2005, winning two golds - at the expense of the Indonesian team.
"Yes, I remember playing Indonesia in the final and that I won two gold medals," she said. She defeated Wynne Prakusya in the singles, before teaming with Shadi Tabatabai to beat Wynne and Ayu Fani Damayanti in the doubles.
Rezai has not faced the pressure felt by some Muslim players, including Sania Mirza of India, who was denounced by a religious group for not wearing Islamic attire on court.
She sympathizes with the Indian.
"I was born in France and I play for France, while she plays for India where there are many Muslims. I just want people to understand her."
One of three children, Rezai began playing tennis at the age of 8 under the tutelage of her father Arsalan (her mother, Nouchine, is a physiotherapist). Her game is built around powerful groundstrokes.
"She told me her father wanted her to hit the ball as hard as she could from the time she was very young," said Spaniard Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who lost to her in Saturday's semifinals.
Rezai's form has gradually improved, and 2009 has been a particularly good year. She took her first title, on clay in Strasbourg, in May, which made her eligible for Bali, and then reached the fourth round at the French Open, her best showing at a Grand Slam.
She avenged her loss in Paris to Dinara Safina by beating the then world number one in Toronto in August.
"It has been much better in the last two years and I will work hard to be in the top 20," she said.
After three consecutive first round losses in Beijing, Linz and Luxembourg, she went on a giant-killing spree this week. Ranked 44th in the world and the 10th seed, she came back from a first set thrashing to overcome Sabine Lisicki, the 4th seed and world number 25, and then beat 8th seed and world 38 Melinda Czink, to win her group in the round-robin event.
She stunned Martinez Sanchez, the 6th seed ranked 30 in the world, to set up a final showdown with compatriot Marion Bartoli, the top seed, on Sunday.
She is guaranteed US$100,000 by reaching the final, and double that amount if she wins, by far the biggest paycheck of her career (her career earnings going into Bali were 981,000).
Accompanied by her parents, she has been a smiling presence during the tournament, pronouncing everything to be "perfect" and visiting the media center to pick up copies of clippings about her.
Rezai is taking things easy and not putting too much pressure on herself.
"It comes from a lot of work that I did before," she says of her gains. "I have nothing to lose. I just play my game, be relaxed and that works. "After Bali, I'll go home and practice, and let's see what's going on."