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tennisIlove09
Nov 6th, 2007, 11:15 PM
Climbing Back: Mashona Washington Returns To Challengers
http://www.sportsmediainc.net/tennisweek/WashingtonMashonaHopkinsGETTY.jpg
Photo By Getty Images By McCarton Ackerman
11/06/2007

While all the women competing at the $75,000 PNC International Tennis Classic in Pittsburgh this week hope to break free from the minor leagues and compete exclusively on the WTA Tour, one woman is looking to scale that summit for a second time.
Mashona Washington, a 31-year-old tour veteran from Houston, TX, had a breakout season in 2004 after years of competing almost exclusively in Challengers.

The younger sister of 1996 Wimbledon finalist MaliVai Washington, Mashona made a leap of 117 spots in the WTA Tour rankings in 2004 as she stunned reigning Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2, in New Haven (http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=11369), reached her first WTA Tour final in Tokyo (http://www.sportsmediainc.com/tennisweek/index.cfm?func=showarticle&newsid=11573), and cracked the top 50 for the first time in her career at the age of 28.
Washington continued to achieve career milestones over the next two years by reaching the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time (at Wimbledon in 2005) and representing the United States in two Fed Cup ties. However, while competing against Belgium in a 2006 Fed Cup quarterfinal match, Washington suffered an injury which reversed her good fortune in an instant.
"I was running up to the net full force and broke off cartilage in my left knee when I fell," Washington remembers. "It didn’t hurt too much at the time, but I immediately knew something wasn’t right."
The injury instantly stalled her career. Two days after the incident, Washington visited her doctor in Texas; three days later, she underwent knee surgery to repair the damage. It would be 15 months before Washington returned to professional tennis.
"Time wasn’t an issue for me," Washington says. "I told my doctor that I only wanted to play for three or four more years, so I wanted to rehab my knee properly and make sure I came back completely ready."
When Washington finally resumed on-court practice, she said that she was prepared to be patient.
"I lost all of my quad strength, so I had to accept that my body was only going to do what it was able to do," says Washington, whose court coverage was always one of the best assets of her game. "It could get frustrating when I’d be running after a ball and thinking, ‘God, I used to make that shot,’ but my family and coach have been so supportive through everything."
Washington got her feet wet last July when she played World Team Tennis for the Houston Wranglers. Although she had a losing record in singles and doubles, there were encouraging signs. Washington and partner Bryanne Stewart scored a 5-4 win over Venus Williams and Lisa Raymond (representing the Philadelphia Freedoms); that same night, Washington pushed Venus to the brink in singles before losing 4-5.
Washington finally returned to competitive tennis at last month at $50,000 challengers in Troy, AL and Lawrenceville, GA. Although she won the doubles title in Troy (with Angela Haynes), she lost in the first round of singles at both events. Washington said her singles game is rusty, but that she is ready for the long climb back.
"I’ve been setting small goals at this point," Washington said. "My first match was all about my knee holding up for two sets. In the second match, I tried to just focus on stringing some good points and good shots together."
Every ranking point counts for Washington at this stage in her comeback. Having lost her ranking as a result of being off the tour for more than a year, Washington has an injury protected rank of No. 131 (her ranking at the time she was injured) which can be used for eight singles and eight doubles events. With Pittsburgh being her third event of the year, Washington will re-appear in the rankings next week. Returning to the Challenger circuit for the first time since 2004, Washington is readjusting to life on the minor leagues of the pro tennis circuit.
"You get free massages at the WTA events," Washington said with a laugh. "They cover all your meals and your hotel for the week as well, so all you have to do is pay for the flight. All of the players here have to cover their own expenses."
Although Washington is sponsored by Prince, she primarily relies on the prize money won at events to keep going on tour. The often astronomical costs of competing as a professional tennis player make it imperative for Washington to move up to WTA level events as soon as possible. Competing on the Challenger circuit can be a costly pursuit.
"I would say it costs at least $50,000 a year to travel on tour, and that’s if you’re doing it frugally by staying in player housing and competing close to home," Washington said. "If you travel with a coach, you can pretty much double that amount."
Although Washington said her least favorite part of tour life is the traveling, she said her time away allowed her a greater appreciation of the opportunities competing on tour has given her.
"Last year I went to Dubai and Doha, two places that I never would have gone to if I weren’t playing a tournament," Washington said. "I got to meet the Duchess of Kent in Birmingham. You meet so many interesting people as a player and I’ve formed some of my closest friendships on tour."
While Washington said that she didn’t want to set a specific goal for 2008, she said her dreams have never changed since her first professional event in 1993.
"My dream has always been to be number one in the world in singles and doubles," Washington said. "I feel that should be everyone’s dream as a professional tennis player and if it’s not, there’s definitely something wrong!"
For Mashona Washington, this week in Pittsburgh will bring her one stop closer to achieving the dream she has always set for herself.
McCarton Ackerman is a freelance journalist residing in Manhattan and currently writing a book about the minor leagues of the pro tennis circuit. He can be reached at mccartonackerman@hotmail.com (mccartonackerman@hotmail.com)

CoryAnnAvants#1
Nov 6th, 2007, 11:26 PM
Thanks for posting that :) I actually wrote this article. Posted a thread earlier about it, but I think the YEC craze pushed it to the bottom ;) I got to interview Mashona at the Pittsburgh tournament on Sunday and she really was one of the nicest people I've ever met. She definitely deserves to have one last good run on tour and hopefully she can make that happen!

williams.i.am
Nov 7th, 2007, 10:52 AM
Thanks for posting that :) I actually wrote this article. Posted a thread earlier about it, but I think the YEC craze pushed it to the bottom ;) I got to interview Mashona at the Pittsburgh tournament on Sunday and she really was one of the nicest people I've ever met. She definitely deserves to have one last good run on tour and hopefully she can make that happen!

good interview. did mashona talk about her bros at all? i was wonderin what mashiska was doin these days. he is so phoine. :drool: ;)

esquímaux
Nov 7th, 2007, 01:36 PM
:D Mona, welcome back babe :D!!!