Iwona Kuczynska can accept the disarray in her life; it's to be expected when the No. 1 women's tennis player in Poland asks for political asylum in the United States.
But the disarray in her game is something else.
"I could be Chris Evert if I could separate the two things (personal life and tennis)," said Kuczynska, following a 6-1, 6-3 loss to eighth-seeded Carol Heynen in the opening round of the Toyota Women's Tennis Classic yesterday. "But I play very bad. I'm just not into it completely. It's been very hard."
Kuczynska, 21, spoke candidly about her decision in May to defect, what preceded it and what has come after. In the fall, she will begin her second semester at the University of California-Bakersfield, where she won the Division II singles title this year. She will be playing doubles here this week, and in the pro-am event Wednesday, for which more amateur players are still needed.
Meanwhile, Kuczynska must wait. She signed the official papers requesting asylum only four days ago, and interviews and meetings must be set up before a decision is reached.
Speaking at the Landon School, where the week-long professional tournament is taking place, Kuczynska said she had been thinking about the decision for two years, but could not imagine leaving.
"The political situation wasn't good," she said. "Life is so difficult in Poland. It is hard to describe. You can't be there for just a week, though (to understand the difficulties); you have to live there for a while. Once martial law came, I knew I was not going back."
"If I would play good it would be all right," she said, upset over her loss to Heynen. "But losing gets me more depressed. I would just like to get away from everybody and just practice. It has been like a circus.
"It is not that I am missing my parents so much," she said, although saying that the Polish government censors all mail. "But I just can't be by myself here. It is too much for one moment." She said she had discussed defecting to the United States with her parents before reaching her decision, but has not talked to them since.
Kuczynska said she first developed the confidence to play professionally when she made it to the third round of last year's French Open before losing to Virginia Wade. Ranked as high as 146th in the world, she looks forward to the time when tennis will be the only thing on her mind.