Waterbury woman holding onto tennis dream
Monday, July 17, 2006
Copyright © 2006 Republican-American
Yasmin Kashef is the No. 1 women's tennis player in New England. Last year she told us that she didn't want to spend her life as a tennis bum, chasing a dream, and a paycheck.
She changed her mind.
Kashef enters the world of professional tennis for the first time this week in New Haven competing at the Pilot Pen pre-qualifying tournament. It is a first step, a monstrous step, but one she is compelled to take.
Kashef, a native of Cairo, was all alone in America except for her husband, and her husband's family, here in Waterbury. But that marriage has ended. All she has left now is the game.
"I am going through a divorce, and it is very, very hard for me," said the 23 year-old. "I am all by myself in this country. Tennis is my best friend now."
Last year, when her last name was Hamzi, she told us she dreamed of playing professionally, but, she didn't want to commit full time:
As a Muslim woman, I didn't want that. I wanted a stable life, with a husband and a family. I am not closed-minded, but I wanted to stay close to my religion."
"I said that, I did," she recalls now. "But now I need to play. First step is to get an international ranking. Then I will try and go out on tour. That is the second step. I am going to give it a shot. I don't want to one day say I wish I had done that. I might not go far, but I at least tried."
The Pilot Pen is as good a place as any to start. Play begins at Yale Thursday, which might also be the same day that her divorce is finalized.
In the pre-qualifying, more than 30 women play for a single wild card spot. Not a wild card entry into the main tournament draw, but a wild card into the pre-tournament qualifying that begins Aug. 18.
Kashef said she must win five matches this week just to get a chance at qualifying again, where she will have to win three more times.
Her life goes something like this: at the gym every morning at 5 a.m. for cardio workouts and weight training; home to eat and shower; go to work at Cartus Corporation in Danbury; hit the practice court in the evening with her coach, Richard Makepeace of Naugatuck; give private lessons when possible.
The Pilot Pen has graciously scheduled her matches in the afternoon so she can still go to work in the morning.
"I have no more vacation time," she said. "I used it when I went to Egypt to visit my family."
She will have to find time in her schedule to play satellite tournaments, where tennis players who are ranked up in the thousands try and win a piece of $10,000 in prize money, along with precious ranking points.
You think this is easy? It ain't.
"No, I will not leave my job," she said. "My job still pays the bills. I like what I am doing. It will be challenging. It is very nice of Pilot Pen to let me play in the afternoons."
Don't expect any more favors from tennis.
"Tennis has always been my passion. I am not going to give it up. I am getting my frustrations out with tennis. My parents tell me to go for it. 'You need tennis,' they said."Ah, but does tennis need Yasmin Kashef?
We shall see.