Catching Up With... Angelique Widjaja
Published November 07, 2010 12:00
BALI, Indonesia - In 2001, Angelique Widjaja became the first Indonesian to win a Wimbledon title when she defeated Dinara Safina in the final of the junior girls' event. The same year, at Bali, the 16-year-old became the sixth player to win the first WTA event she played; at No.574 in the world, she was the lowest-ranked woman ever to win a tour title. Widjaja produced a similar double act in 2002, winning the Roland Garros juniors and a second WTA title at Pattaya City, and earned her first Top 100 season finish. But although she would reach another tour semi and three quarterfinals and in 2003 rise as high as No.55 (and No.15 in doubles in 2004), injuries began to take a toll. After knee surgery at the end of 2004, Widjaja went on hiatus in 2005, returning to play her last singles match on the ITF Circuit in 2006. She played doubles a few times over the next couple of years, but called time on her tour career in 2008, at the age of 22.
We caught up with Angelique during this week's Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions.
Tell us about your role with this tournament.
AW: I'm an ambassador for the title sponsor, the Commonwealth Bank, so I'm doing all sorts of off-court activities - coaching clinics for kids, taking part in cooking classes, surfing, the player party. I've also been doing a lot of interviews for the media.
What else keeps you busy these days?
AW: Last July I opened a tennis academy in Jakarta, with my former coach, Deddy Tejamukti. It's called the AD Tennis Academy and so far, so good - we have around 80 students now. I actually teach, so I'm hitting from Monday till Saturday. It's not a residential academy - the classes run from three till six for the kids each afternoon, and at night we run private lessons for adults. I take the small ones, from age four to 10 - it's like kindergarten, basically, but I love kids, so I enjoy it. Deddy teaches the classes for the older kids.
What's the proudest accomplishment of your playing career?
AW: Winning the Wimbledon juniors was special. At that time we didn't have a lot of Asians on the world tennis scene, so it was like I brought my nation over there with me. A lot of people knew about Bali, but they didn't know it was part of Indonesia or even where Indonesia is. Later that year I was given a wildcard for the Wismilak International here in Bali, and I won the tournament. I was only 16 and I think it helped that I didn't know anybody... and they didn't know me!
On that note, so many Asian countries have players doing well on the tour now… what do you think about that?
AW: I'm very happy. I'm very proud of Kimiko Date Krumm, because she's so inspiring, not just for Japanese tennis but for Indonesian tennis. In Indonesia, people sometimes say Asians can't do well at tennis because they are too small and what not, but Kimiko made it. We have some good juniors in this country and my wish is for us to have a player doing well on the WTA tour again, like China and Japan.
Who was your toughest opponent?
AW: I played against Safina and Jelena Jankovic and also enjoyed wins over Alicia Molik, Anna Kournikova, Patty Schnyder and Tamarine Tanasugarn. But probably the toughest to play against was Jennifer Capriati, when she was Top 3 in the world. I didn't beat her.
Did you have a tennis idol when you were growing up?
AW: No, I didn't. But now I love Kim Clijsters, because she's a good player, and also she's very humble. We were on the tour together, but I never got to play against her. I still like to watch her play the most.
Did you have a favorite tournament?
AW: No surprise - Bali! It's not just because I'm Indonesian. I always loved the atmosphere. As well as winning in 2001, I made the quarters a couple of times and won the doubles once with María Vento-Kabchi. It's home for me.
What do you miss about life on the tour?
AW: I think I can really appreciate how fortunate tennis players are to have the opportunity to compete and earn prize money week to week - there's a level of security in that. I'm enjoying what I'm doing now, but it's much harder to make a living. It's a new business, so there is more uncertainty - in Indonesia at the moment it's difficult for everyone to get jobs and so tennis lessons might be a seen as a luxury.