THAILAND'S Tamarine Tamasugarn is a superstar back home, earning
US$150,000 in prize-money in the last year of her tennis exploits, but
that has not stopped her from answering a national call-up.
The Sea Games are financially not as rewarding as the WTA circuit but
the 20-year-old American-born Thai wants to do her bit for her country.
Tamarine, who joined the Thai national team in 1987, is the Games
defending singles champion. She beat Malaysia's Khoo Chin Bee to the gold.
Tamarine is among the few world class athletes competing in the Jakarta
She has moved up the world rankings in a hurry - from 180 last year to
her present 38.
And her recent feats include qualifying for the third round of the US
Open and defeating higher-ranked Chanda Rubin of the US in the first
round. She earned US$28,000 for reaching the third round.
Tamarine was also the runner-up in the 1995 Junior Wimbeldon
But despite her fame and ever growing popularity, Tamarine is a down to
earth person who loves the game and aims to move up the world rankings
The well-built player owes a great deal to her father Tamasugarn who
started her off as a two-year-old in Los Angeles where he was running a
Tamarine said: "I was invited for prize-money tournaments currently
being played on the tour but I opted to turn out for my country.
"It is not only an honour but also my way of paying back in a small way
to my country.
"And I want the gold medal to do my country proud."
Tamarine is disappointed that Indonesia's top player, Yayuk Basuki, has
skipped the Games to play in Zurich.
"I have played Yayuk only once - in a doubles match in the last Sea
Games - although we travel a bit together for tournaments.
"I was looking forward to meeting her in Jakarta but she will not be
Tanasugarn watches her in all her tournaments and he is in Jakarta.
Tanasugarn himself was a Thai national star - in basketball.
He represented his country at the 1960 and 1964 Olympics in Rome and
Tokyo respectively and the 1962 Asian Games.
He was in the gold medal-winning team at the 1959 Seap Games in Bangkok
and in the 1961 Games in Rangoon.
"I got interested in tennis when I was doing business in the US and
encouraged my children to take up the game," said Tanasugarn.
"I started them off early and Tamarine did better than my other three
"Tamarine may be tipped to retain the singles title but we cannot take
anything for granted."
Friday, October 10, 1997
Reporting from Jakarta