an article from jakarta post!
Angie tuning up for Tokyo on return to the tour
[16.01.2006] Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
After a 15-month injury hiatus, Angelique "Angie" Widjaja knows full well that she will be playing catchup when she returns to the WTA Tour later this month in Japan.
The former national number one, who underwent left knee surgery in November 2004, is striking the ball well in practice and acknowledges dropping a couple of kilograms to reduce the strain on her leg.
But it's the other variables -- confidence and stamina -- that may be lacking when she takes the court in Tokyo.
"I'm not completely 100 percent physically, perhaps 80 percent to 90 percent," the 21 year old said on Friday of her preparation for the US$1.3 million Toray Pan Pacific Open.
"I'll be leaving on January 26, so I'm going all out in practice."
The elite Tier 1 Pan Pacific is a tough tournament for a player rusty from lack of matchplay to make her return, even if it is in qualifying, with most of the world's top names competing.
And while the Bandung-born player is training on the hardcourts of a Jakarta hotel, the Tokyo indoor tournament is played on carpet.
"It's up to Angie to make her decisions on what is best for her, but it's often better for a player to start out with the smaller tournaments, to regain their confidence," said former world top 20 star Yayuk Basuki, who was Angie's mentor in the WTA Tour program for young players.
"My plan was to come back in small tournaments, but after I was given a wildcard, I gladly accepted it, because it's a big tournament," Angie said.
"After that, I'll go to Pattaya and then India (Bangalore)."
A baseliner who is also a solid volleyer, Angie realizes that regaining her confidence is key.
"My strokes are already OK, but one of the main things is being back on court in a match situation, and also the fear of having more problems with my leg. Hopefully, with these tournaments, I will get it (confidence) back."
Last year was a frustrating one, with Angie's scheduled return put back due to complications in her recuperation. She only began light training in November.
"Of course, it's been saddening, feeling that it was all lost just like that," she said.
After missing the entire year, the 2001 Wimbledon junior champion and 2002 Roland Garros winner does not have enough points to be ranked on the WTA Tour.
Even with the dispensation of a "special ranking" of 118 -- allowing her to gain entry to eight tournaments for singles and doubles during the year -- it will be a hard slog back to the form that brought her to 55 in the world in March 2003.
Her longterm goal has always been to reach the top 20, for the time being, she will focus on making the top 100 -- allowing her direct entry into the Grand Slams.
She takes heart from the example of Dinara Safina, who she defeated in the Wimbledon junior final.
"When I was still playing, she had to take about six months off due to a back problem but then she returned. I take some motivation from her example," Angie said of the Russian, now ranked 19th in the world.
The women's and men's tour have begun to resemble a casualty list, with injured players soldiering on through the pain in a packed calendar. While women needed to play from 12 to 14 tournaments to defend their rankings in the early 1990s, today they need to commit to 18 events.
Angie admits she was close to her physical breaking point at her last appearance at the Wismilak International -- an event she won as a 16-year-old wildcard three years before.
"That was the worst. I had to take a couple of pills (painkillers) before every match just to get through it ... It's an experience that has taught me that I need to be careful in choosing the tournaments that I should compete in, when I should take a rest and when I need to train."
Angie, who often complained of homesickness during her junior career and early years on the women's tour, said the long hiatus left her eager to play once again.
The devout Christian credits her family and her faith for helping her deal with the frustration of the past year.
"I got a lot from my time off, being able to gather with my family every day," said the youngest child and only daughter of six children of a hotel and textile factory owner.
"That has been a plus. There was a time when I felt stuck, I was bored, mentally tired and wondering where was I going ...
"Now, there's a new motivation, like I'm refreshed, and I really want to play again."