Wed, Jul 10, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Indonesian at Wimbledon calls for help after courts replaced by baseball fields

AFP, LONDON

Christopher Rungkat is ploughing a lone furrow for tennis in one of the world’s most populous nations: a task made all the harder after Indonesia turned a top tennis facility into a baseball field.

Rungkat, 29, is one of Asia’s top doubles players, riding on a career high in the rankings and making his main draw debut at Wimbledon.

Last year’s Asian Games mixed doubles gold medalist hopes his exploits can inspire a new generation to take up tennis — but said it could only happen if the Indonesian authorities build the facilities.

“There are younger guys trying to come up. I know it’s tough; I’ve been there,” Rungkat said. “But we don’t really have a good facility back home in Jakarta. We had a good facility with a lot of clay courts and hard courts — but the government decided to convert them to a baseball field, which is very sad for me. It’s right in the center of Jakarta.”

The doubles world No. 69 said Indonesia’s prospects in the sport could be bright, with its population of more than 250 million people and love of the fellow racquet sport badminton.

“We have a good future in tennis. I really hope I can inspire younger children,” he said. “I really hope the government can help them. We have to start, at least, by having courts and a proper facility.”

Rungkat has been playing men’s doubles with Taiwan’s Hsieh Cheng-Peng for 18 months. They are two of the top six men’s doubles players from Asia on the tennis circuit.

“We’ve had so much history with Asian doubles players like Leander Paes,” Rungkat said. “Being there on top with them is a great achievement. It’s the new generation we have coming up.

“Me and Hsieh are among the few still under 30,” he added. “All the work that we’ve been putting in is paying off this year.”

The pair lost their Wimbledon first round encounter to the experienced 14th seeds Jurgen Melzer and Oliver Marach of Austria, 11-9 in the final set.

“I was very excited, especially playing in the main draw at this most prestigious event. I’ve waited so long for this moment and I’m very proud of myself for getting to this stage,” Rungkat said.

He is the sole figure on the men’s tour from the world’s fourth most populous country. There are no Indonesians at all in the world men’s singles rankings — and just him in the top 700 in the doubles.

There are three Indonesian women in the singles rankings, all outside the top 400.

However, Rungkat is not the sole Indonesian at Wimbledon.

Priska Madelyn Nugroho, 16, is in the girls’ competitions, winning her first-round singles match in three sets.

“She’s been doing well. She’s a very talented young girl and I see a good potential in her,” said Rungkat. “I think she’s going to be the next Indonesian hope in tennis.”

Rungkat said that winning medals at the Asian Games and breaking into Grand Slam events was making people sit up and notice tennis back home.

As part of his vision for inspiring a new generation of players in Indonesia, Rungkat would love to back up his Asian Games success with a spot at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

“I would love to play in the Olympics. It’s my dream since I was a child,” he said.

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