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Basuki gets to say goodbye

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Posted: Saturday July 01, 2000 08:36 PM

By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated

LONDON -- Martina Navratilova played more than five hours of tennis today, pushed to three sets in both of her matches. She won her doubles match with Mariaan De Swardt over 13th-seeded Kim Po and Anne-Gaelle Sidot; then she lost her mixed doubles match with Mahesh Bhupathi against Miriam Oremans and Jan Siemerink. It was good stuff, and the fans packed tightly like commuters on the Tube to get one last look at the legend. Yet Navratilova wasn't the only female player who acquitted herself well in a comeback.

Yayuk Basuki was a solid, top-30 player for much of the '90s before she decided to drop off the circuit to give birth to a son, Yari Nara, last September. At age 29, Basuki had essentially retired and was perfectly happy transitioning into the role of a full-time mom. But then she started pining for a return to the tour. It wasn't the competition, nor was it the money she missed. Rather, she came to a striking realization. Living in her homeland of Indonesia, she wondered when she might next get to see all the friends she made during her nine-year career. (Yes, this is the same tour Samantha and Alexandra Stevenson described as a Darwinist, every-woman-for-herself "hell" a few days ago.)

Friends like Irina Spirlea, Caroline Vis, Conchita Martinez and Pat Tarabini she could call and E-mail frequently, but not easily see in person. Last month, Basuki and her husband, Hary Suharyadi, dropped Yari Nara off with the grandparents and came to Europe for one final go-round. "I was missing them a lot," says Basuki, "and I thought by coming back and playing these tournaments, I could spend some time with them and say goodbye to everyone."

Turns out, Basuki had some game left in her as well. Though she has only trained lightly since giving birth, she beat Marissa Irvin, the 2000 NCAA runner-up, and Marlene Weingartner to reach the third round here. The attacking style and quick hands that made her a top doubles player -- and helped her win six tour events and more than $1.5 million in prize money -- was drawn out by the slick grass. "Sometimes I could tell I hadn't been playing full-time," she says. "There were other times when I felt great, like it just felt so natural."

Basuki's improbable run stopped Saturday against Jennifer Capriati. After playing a competitive first set, taking the American to a tiebreaker, Basuki's train derailed and she lost the second set at love. The contrast between Basuki and Capriati was striking. While Basuki is playing for sheer enjoyment, her opponent is playing, in part, to chip away at unfulfilled expectations. In the stands, Suharyadi beamed with pride even as his wife was on the verge of defeat. A row ahead of him, Capriati's notorious father, Stefano - who, against all logic, has replaced Harold Solomon as his daughter's coach -- clutched his hands desperately and, with no mirth in evidence, bellowed, "Come on, Jenny," as if he were playing the ponies at the track.

Despite her minor success here, Basuki is immune from the tickle of playing full-time. In fact, she's eager to return home to Indonesia, reunite with her son and get on with her life. Still, it was a hell of a last hurrah. "I came here to see everyone and have fun," she says. Did she? "Oh, yeah. Some of the most fun of my career."

Half volleys

Some eye-popping stats from Mark Philippoussis' epic 4-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 20-18 win over Sjeng Schalken: The fifth set alone spanned 135 minutes; Philippoussis hit 44 aces (not necessarily all that many considering they played the equivalent of seven sets); and the two played 472 points. ... Eight American women are in the round of 16. The four seeds ( Lindsay Davenport, Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Monica Seles ) are joined by Lisa Raymond, Lilia Osterloh, Kristina Brandi and Capriati.... Chris Evert, Martina Hingis' mentor, has spoken to her protégé about the pros and cons of dating a male tennis player. ... Alexander Popp, who ranks with Swiss Alp Marc Rosset as the tallest player on tour (6' 7"), advanced with a relatively routine win over Gustavo Kuerten. That leaves zero French Open finalists, male or female, left in the tournament. The quote machine that is Justin Gimelstob was in rare form Saturday. Asked if he'd been aware that Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver were watching his match against Pete Sampras on Centre Court, our man had this to say: "In the warmup I saw Borg with a really hot girl in the front row. I thought, Okay, if I play well here, maybe I have a shot. Then I saw Borg. I'm like, Not going to happen. At the end I saw Laver. That was [the order]. The hot girl, Borg, then Laver."

Sports Illustrated staff writer Jon Wertheim will be filing daily reports from Wimbledon.

Related information
Friday's On the Court: Martin simply blew it
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