Asian tennis players must show more commitment
Former world No. 19 Yayuk says a lack of passion and funding is holding Asian women players back
She helped blazed a trail for the women's game in Asia when she reached the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 1997.
A few years before Yayuk Basuki's feat, Japan's Kimiko Date also reached the final eight of the US Open twice (1993 and 1994), and the semi-finals of the three other Grand Slams between 1994 to 1996.
Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn followed in Yayuk's footsteps 11 years after the Indonesian, reaching the quarter-final of Wimbledon in 2008.
Three years later, China's Li Na became the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles title when she was crowned French Open champion in 2011.
Despite this, Asian women have been unable to make a sustained mark at the highest level of tennis over the past two decades, despite predictions from various voices about a boom for the sport across the continent.
Yayuk, who is in town for a tennis clinic for students organised by the BNP Paribas WTA Finals' presenting sponsors SC Global as part of their Tennis For Every Child programme, believes they are two key reasons for the lack of world-class Asian stars.
Firstly, aspiring players still do not eat, sleep and breathe the sport.
"That commitment is very important," said Yayuk yesterday, on the sidelines of the clinic, held at the Ministry of Education's Sports Hall at Evans Road.
"Full commitment to tennis means you don't have any other life.
"It's difficult, especially for our Asian players."
Secondly, the 45-year-old added that countries are still not ready to invest the resources needed to produce world-class talent.
She runs the Yayuk Basuki Tennis Academy in Jakarta.
The academy's aim is to teach the fundamentals of the game to youngsters below the age of 18, and Yayuk revealed her school initially had trouble finding affordable facilities.
The former world No. 19 told TNP: "Asian countries are not focused enough on development.
"When I was at the top, we should have been focused on who would come after me.
"In Indonesia, we had Angelique Widjaja, who was ranked 55th in the world for a while (in 2003), but then she got injured.
"I was still playing then, so people were hoping and depending on me all the time.
"(Indonesia) didn't prepare for the second or third layer... This is the same across Asian countries every time they have one top player.
INVEST MORE MONEY
"Most of them don't want to invest more money.
"To create good professional players, you need to do that."
Yayuk, who won four Asian Games gold medals from the 1980s through to the 1990s, is passionate about youth development and she was delighted to be a part of SC Global's clinic yesterday.
"Before they jump into tennis, kids these days want to know who their role models are," she said.
"They want to know, 'What can I achieve?'. That's very important with the kids from this generation."
Sarah-Jane Smith, SC Global's senior manager, marcom & resident relations, said: "For us, it's part of a bigger circle.
"The Tennis For Every Child programme is all about giving the opportunity to experience tennis to children who might not normally have it.
"Inspiration is also part of the learning journey."
Being able to interact with the likes of Yayuk is one way to inspire kids, Smith added.
As part of the initiative, SC Global will give WTA Finals tickets to schools, with more than 200 children in line to watch the best female players in the world battle it out at the Indoor Stadium from Oct 23 to 30.
Melissa Pine, vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and tournament director of the WTA Finals, said the growth of women's tennis in Asia will help to inspire a new generation of players.
"Tennis in Asia has never been in a better place than it is right now," she said.
"With 19 events in the Asia-Pacific, that represents a pretty large chunk of our WTA Tour (which has 61 tournaments).
"And with the WTA Finals being in Singapore, the first time ever in an Asian country, it says a lot.
"And when you're geared more towards the development of the grassroots programme, you will have more people interested in the sport and more people playing."
Doubts over William's participation in WTA Finals Singapore
Two years ago, a knee injury cast doubt over Serena Williams' participation in the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore.
The American, arguably the greatest women's tennis player in history, did turn up, and duly won the title - her fourth in six years.
Serena pulled out of last year's tournament, though, to recover from a litany of injuries that plagued her throughout 2015.
She has qualified for this year's elite season-ending tournament - which take place next month at the Singapore Indoor Stadium - but in a year which has seen her lose her grip on the world No. 1 ranking and also suffer from injury at the recent US Open, some are wondering if the superstar will once again be missing when the draw is made.
Melissa Pine, the vice-president of WTA Asia-Pacific and tournament director of the WTA Finals, said the most important thing is for Williams to be fit.
"I can't speak for Serena right now," she said.
"But we know she's qualified for the WTA Finals.
"She has been out on the court competing her heart out.
"We know Serena always gives it her all... (and) we look forward to having her hopefully out on the court and healthy for a long time to come.
"Every athlete has to maintain health and wellness, and we support Serena."
Williams turns 35 on Sept 26, and has played only 10 tournaments this year in a bid to manage the physical stress of the WTA Tour.
She lost the Australian Open and French Open finals this year, and while she did win Wimbledon, the 22-time Grand Slam champion was knocked out in the semi-finals of the US Open.
Question marks have already formed over whether she can win on the biggest stages, but former world No. 19, Yayuk Basuki, believes Williams' era of dominance could go on for another two years, despite her recent struggles.
HEART AND BELIEF
The Indonesian, who is here to coach local students in a tennis clinic conducted by the WTA Finals' presenting sponsors SC Global, said: "With Serena, if she still has the heart and belief that she's still the best, I'm pretty sure she can still (dominate).
Serena William PHOTO: AFP
"The most important thing is her mental strength, and it's not easy because she's not young any more.
"Speaking from experience, when you're 34, most of the problems come from yourself, not physically, but in your mind.
"Sometimes, you get out there on court, you're 100 per cent fit, but you think, 'Can I do this or not?'
"But if she's fit and believes in herself, no one can beat her, I think even in the next one or two years."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ