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Mashona Washington Tries To Rebuild Career

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A decade ago, the knee injury that all athletes dreaded was the torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Today, it’s been replaced by a scarier one — an injury that requires microfracture surgery. Some people, like Phoenix Suns star Amare Stoudemire, have recovered completely. Others, like former New York Knick Allan Houston, have never been the same.

For tennis player Mashona Washington — who underwent the procedure in 2006 and had to sit out an entire season — the final verdict has yet to be rendered.

On a sunny Tuesday at the Boar’s Head Sports Club, Washington — the younger sister of former men’s tour player MaliVai Washington — continued her comeback in the Boyd Tinsley USTA Women’s Pro Tennis Championships.

In a morning qualifier, Washington, ranked No. 602 in the world, defeated Lauren Herring 7-6, 6-3. However, a couple of hours later, Washington lost her first-round match to Gabriela Paz 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.

Despite her early exit, the 31-year-old Washington says she has been pleased with her progress. Her knee has felt good following the microfracture surgery. “Often the reason I think [athletes] don’t come back is that they come back too soon, like after five or six months,” she said. “I was completely gone until it got better. I think athletes can be their own worst enemies.”

Washington displayed powerful groundstrokes in her victory over Herring. She did a good job of keeping her off balance by mixing in some drop shots and coming into net. Tied at 3 in the first-set tiebreaker, Washington executed a beautiful slice forehand approach, which set her up for a put-away backhand volley.

“A lot of the girls just like to hang from the baseline,” said Washington, who was once ranked as high as No. 50 in the world. “When you come into net, ‘They’re like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’ It puts a lot of pressure on them, especially in a tiebreaker.”

Serving was the one area where Washington showed some rust. She was fortunate that Herring was off in that department as well. There were a whopping 13 service breaks in the match. “I didn’t serve that well,” Washington agreed, “but I said to myself, ‘I have other parts of my game that I can make work.’”

Washington’s goal is to break back into the Top 50 within the next two years. In 2004, Washington made it to the finals at an event in Tokyo before losing to current No. 3 player in the world Maria Sharapova, a player whom she had beaten on two other occasions.

Washington’s best grand-slam finish was a run to the third round of Wimbledon in 2005. That just so happened to be the place where her older brother, MaliVai, made his claim to fame.
In 1996, MaliVai Washington became the first African-American player to reach the finals at the All England Club since Arthur Ashe did so in 1975.

Today, MaliVai is running a foundation in Jacksonville, Fla. for inner-city kids. “I always call him for advice and things,” said Mashona, the youngest of four children. “He’s really good for that.”

Washington, who is scheduled to participate in the doubles portion of the tournament on Thursday, isn’t sure how long she’ll continue her comeback attempt. After all, by tennis standards, the 31-year-old isn’t exactly a young pup.

“This year is a climbing year for me,” she said. “I’ll see how it goes. If I feel like I’m making significant strides, I’ll play in ’09 and ’10 and see how it goes.”

Full Article Here
Photo/Andrew Shurtleff

Posted by Shelia

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