Living life a la Angelique
by Alaric Golmes - Gulf News
Crisis… every sportsperson goes through it. Some fall prey to it, while there are cases galore of people rising to rare levels of distinction to grow out of it.
For Indonesian third seed Angelique Widjaja, now defending her title at the 6th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge at the Metropolitan Resort and Beach Club, a crisis like a lack of self-belief has been like a defeaning roar. She's been unable to narrow down on the cause, but she sure knows the effects as she grapples for redemption and truth.
"I'm confused," she says after her fighting three-set 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 win against qualifier Zsofia Gubacsi in the first round earlier this week.
"This is the first time that I am experiencing something like this," she smiles, not trying to show through her fear of undergoing something like it so early in her career.
And if it is a general lack of confidence, then there was no way she could hide it as she faltered time and again with her shots in the opening set against her Hungarian opponent on centre court.
"I simply lost my confidence, and it was very tough for me out there today," a relieved Widjaja admits after meeting up with journalists in the media room following her three-set match against Gubacsi.
"However, I am thrilled that I could come back and win today and start the defence of my title."
The crisis has not been new. It has been lurking around for a few weeks now. Like the rise and fall of an incoming tide. At the Japan Open recently, Widjaja lost in the opening round. However, she made amends in her favourite Bali Open as she made it to the quarterfinals stage, taking in stronger opponents like Dinara Safina while also going on to win the doubles title there.
"Bali felt nice and it was a good week."
But with Bali in the background, things started crumbling once again for the 5.8ft 18-year-old from Bandung, Indonesia. "I've dropped (in the rankings) again and I really don't know if it is too much of tennis that is doing the damage," she shrugs.
Despite this maze, she's seriously in search of answers. She pins it down to extensive traveling on the tour coupled with some hasty planning of the schedule, for instance. And yet, she is not sure even for herself about it.
"I think it was too much of tennis this year. I was continuously playing in Europe and then on to the Fed Cup, followed by a month and a half in the US. It was all too much I think. I was very tired physically, but more than it, tired mentally too," she adds.
Not too convincing though for a mind so young, who has the ability to go beyond normal circumstances, as she did last year when she won from a set down against Japan's Shinobu Asagoe in the final here. "I think it's the extra pressure this year," she smiles, trying to be convincing one more time.
Sounds fair when one sees that she presently stands at No. 74 compared to her best-ever No. 55 on the WTA Tour at the beginning of the year. "I think last year I played without the pressure being on me. I could just go out there and give it my best shot and not exactly care what the result would be. This year it has not been so," she nods.
"This year has been difficult."
But hope is on the way, and like many other players on the tour will testify, Dubai might prove to be a turning point for the 2001 Wimbledon Junior title holder. "This week I am feeling much better," Widjaja reflected.
The intention of feeling good within has given her a new dimension to look at things and the game she loves so much. "Now that I know what exactly the crisis is, I want to learn as much as I can," she states.
"I don't have any goals here. I just want to go out there on the court, play to my best and keep on improving my game for the next year."
And if there was any point that she could have started this new dimension for her play, it was with her opening match against Gubacsi as she, time and again put the shuddering thought of losing in the first round, at the back of her mind.
"The thought of losing was there, and yet I did not want to think about it. "All I wanted to do was to be more focused and learn from the experience."
Widjaja serves evidence of talent
Name: Angelique Widjaja
Residence: Bandung, Indonesia
Date of Birth: December 12, 1984
WTA Tour singles titles: 2
WTA Tour doubles titles: 2
ITF Women's Circuit singles titles: 1
Prize money (for 2002): $124,964
Career high ranking: 55
Coached by: Deddy Tejamukti
* Stylish debut at Bali Open in 2001 where she became the youngest player to win a tournament during that season.
* Lowest ranked player ever to win a Tour title at No. 579
* Became first Indonesian to win a Wimbledon title when she defeated Dinara Safina (sister of Marat Safin) 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 to clinch the junior girls crown in 2001.