Monday, August 09, 1999

Washington: Tourney will map options

Doubts linger after surgeries

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Today continues a crucial stretch in the tennis career of MaliVai Washington.

        His first-round match against Arnaud Di Pasquale of France in the Great American Insurance ATP Championship (11 a.m., Center Court) will be Washington's second of the year.

        Last month, he returned after eight months off and lost to James Blake in the first round in Newport, R.I.

        Washington is ranked No.404, by far the lowest of anybody in the 56-player field. He received a wild-card entry because he is trying to come back from his second knee operation in 21/2 years.

        “How big is tomorrow?” he said Sunday. “I guess it's a pretty big moment for me ... because I'm kind of coming to a crossroads, so to speak, to determine where things are going. So if Arnaud Di Pasquale beats the daylights out of me, he'll probably put me one step closer to retirement.”

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        Washington, ranked No.11 in the world in October 1992, will also play in Indianapolis next week and will evaluate how his knee holds up. Washington injured his left knee in February 1997 during a Davis Cup match against Brazil. He had surgery two months later and returned to compete in 10 events in 1998.

        The knee started out fine, then felt worse as the year went on. Last November, he had another surgery.

        “At some point I have to make a decision — the knee is getting better and I can compete on the tour at a top level, or it's time to start looking to do other things,” he said.

        Washington, 30, lost to Richard Krajicek in the 1996 Wimbledon final.

        Washington has thrown himself into the MaliVai Washington Foundation. The goal is to provide programs to kids who otherwise would not be exposed to tennis.

        “It's probably been a good thing that the foundation has really taken off,” he said.

        “... But ultimately I'd like to be on the court full time.”

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