Month: March 2020

Sport of bright individualists. What is done in Kazakhstan to popularize court tennis?

In 2007 the charge of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation was taken by businessman Bulat Utemuratov. For 13 years, modern tennis centres were built in every oblast centre, and the programme for development of children’s tennis was launched. For the period from 2007 through 2019, the number of courts in the country has increased from 62 to 297. According to unofficial information, it was reputation of Bulat Utemuratov, selective negotiations with sportsmen and creation of specific conditions that allowed to invite legionnaires out of strong Russian tennis players under the banner of the Kazakhstani national team. Probably, without high class professionals Kazakhstan would be unlikely to play regularly in quarter-finals of the Davis Cup and in the women’s Fed Cup World Group.

“It is the team that wins, it is the trainer that loses”.

Such words were said to journalists by the captain of the Kazakhstani national tennis team, Yury Shchukin. Later he confessed: Davis Cup was on the line, the cup matches held on 6-7 March in Nur-Sultan against the Netherlands became for Yury the first ones in his capacity as the captain of the national team.

“Captain means responsibility. As they say: It is the team that wins, it is the trainer that loses. During the game you are next to the player at the bench, you tune his tactics, you work with trainers. By the way, we always invite youngsters to training camps, even when we play away – guys from the reserve are with us. They train with the principal team, they need to feel the game speed at a different level, all nuances of the mature tennis. When we play at home, we pull in even more guys from the reserve so that to involve and view everyone who might be useful for the first team”, said Shchukin.  

Captain of the national tennis team of Kazakhstan Yury Shchukin / Photo by

As the result, the Kazakhstani team got through to the final part of the Davis Cup-2020, having taken on the Netherlands team with a 3:1 score and thus scooping out the ticket to Madrid (the final part of the David Cup will take place on 23-29 November 2020 in Spain).

The players he trains are with a potential and he watches them closely.  “Lomakin, Tashbolatov, Sagadat, Yevseyev, Khabibullin – these are our nearest reserve. We work with them in training camps and keep the track of their performance further in tournaments”, added Shchukin.

“This year we aim for at least the semifinal of the Davis Cup, we have played so many times in quarterfinals and now are a little bit stuck at this stage. If we manage to reach the semifinal, then the final will be very close too. I am sure that our team is capable of this. Sportive luck is important too”, said the trainer noting that last year our national team took a principled victory over the Portuguese team with a 3:1 score, which allowed  Kazakhstan to get through to the final round of the Davis Cup.

The men’s team of Kazakhstan holds the 12th line in the Davis Cup rating and is the five-time winner of the tournament’s quarterfinal (in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2018).

“We want to make it to Budapest”

One more achievement of the Tennis Federation is support of Kazakhstani female tennis players. The women’s national team showed a decent playing during qualification at the Fed Cup-2020.

The playing day in the battle between Kazakhstan and Belgium in the Fed Cup qualifying round started with the duel between Yuliya Putintseva and Elise Mertens. The day before both sportswomen won one point each for their teams. After defeat in the first set with a 1:6 score, Putintseva did manage to even up scores in the beginning of the second one, to take the game in the tie-break, but it was still an overwhelming task to resist the attack of the 19th racket of the world. The result of that meet was 1:6, 6(1):7 in favour of the Belgian. This time the Kazakhstani could not repeat her unbelievable comeback when, playing with Bonaventure and being just a step away from the defeat, she recouped twice on her rival’s serve and won.   

Then Zarina Diyas came out to the court, who in compliance with the drawing procedure had to play with the 115th racket of the world Ysaline Bonaventure but the captain of the Belgian team, Johan van Herck made a replacement and put forward for this matchup with our compatriot Kirsten Flipkens who held the 34th position in the world rating. Before that, the sportswomen met just once. In 2014 Zarina Diyas downed Flipkens in the first round of the WTA tournament in France with 2:2, 6:7(3), 6:3 scores. Their current second meeting ended with the Belgian’s victory – 6:1, 6:4.

Zarina Diyas / Photo by Andrey Udartsev

Thus, the score in the qualifying match between Belgium and Kazakhstan was 3:1. The rivalling team got through to the final stage and will try once again to win the champion title now in Budapest this April. Kazakhstanis showed a good level of playing, taking into account that the court home team were former champions of the Fed Cup (2001), two-time finalists (1969, 2006) and nine-time semifinalists of the tournament (1970, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1988, 1997, 2003, 2011). 

“We have nothing to lose – we visit. But the Belgians need to reconfirm their status, their fans are expecting them to win. Therefore I and all girls have to show our best tennis, so that to stand up decently to them, to win and to take Kazakhstan to the final part of the tournament. We want to make it to Budapest”, said Yuliya Putintseva before the match with the Belgians.

And in the meantime the International Tennis Federation has postponed the Fed Cup-2020 final and play-off games for an indefinite period. This was done because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“New dates of the Fed Cup final and play-off games will be announced as we go along. We will continue the cooperation with all tennis federations to minimise the consequences of Covid-19 spread. In the meanwhile the ITF Consultative Group for Covid -19 issues will continue to monitor the situation and further decisions will be based on official information and expert recommendations”, reads the message from the International Tennis Federation.

In the new season the Tennis Federation intends, as a minimum, to beat up the historical result of previous years and to make it into the David Cup semifinal. A victory in the grand tournament is one of the main goals for the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation and the national team is on track to this.

Zarina Zhakupova

«Hello, Salem!». How world star visits help to promote court tennis in Kazakhstan.

13 years ago, one event happened in Kazakhstan that generated lots of buzz among parents of little children. “That’s it, we’ll send Yarik to court tennis and will bring him up as the sports star”, such talks could be heard in kitchens all over the place, just the name of a child changed. We’ll tell you how it all started.

Very few people heard of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation which either has been functioning, or just has been nominally launched, from 1991. Everything changed in 2007, when the organization was headed by businessman Bulat Utemuratov. The result was modern tennis courts built in each oblast centre of Kazakhstan, a programme of development of children’s tennis launched. For the period from 2007 to 2019, the number of courts in the country has grown from 62 to 297, i.e. it has become five times more in 10 years. The Tennis Federation has no less ambitious plans for 2020 too: construction of tennis centres in five cities and towns: Almaty, Turkestan, Karaganda, Lisakovsk and Rudny in the Kostanay Oblast. Parents can set their minds at rest: all centres will be equipped with inside and outside courts. But first things first.

«Hola! Zdravo! Welcome to Kazakhstan!»

24 October 2019, Nur-Sultan. In spite of the late hour (11.45pm), the capital’s airport is noisy and crowded: journalists and a delegation are meeting two greatest sportsmen at once – Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in Nur-Sultan / Photo by

Next evening Nadal and Djokovic held a charity match for 12 thousand spectators in the Barys Arena Palace. All proceeds from the sales of tickets were put in the development of children’s tennis in Kazakhstan.

“Experts call this match unique not only for Kazakhstan but for the CIS countries too, as tennis players of such a level – the first and second rackets of the world – have never yet met on the courts of post-soviet countries before”.

The outstanding sportsmen took part in several events arranged by the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation. Before the match Djokovic and Nadal had a master class for the winners and awardees of the Kazakhstan championship for players under 10 years. Besides, they participated in the opening of the new tennis centre in the Zheruiyk Park where they were invited to as the guests of honour.

The winners of Roland-Garros, US Open and Wimbledon have a huge number of fans in Kazakhstan, and not only the capital inhabitants were noticed among the spectators that evening. This once again proved that Kazakhstan has got a large tennis community.

“Having witnessed the duel of legends, children wanted to become such greatest players themselves and, of course, they rushed to join the tennis section, and it was the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation deserving credit for this. It happened before too.  On 25 September 2014 an exhibition match of Rafael Nadal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6:7, 6:3, 6:4) took place in the capital. And now, the effect of that battle was just astonishing. As per open data, a huge number of kids got a craving for engaging themselves in tennis, as such tremendous events always charge emotionally so much as if it were a Kazakhstani who sensationally won the Grand Slam tournament, the world championship or the Olympic Games”, said sports observer Timur Baiketayev.

“Hello, salem”, Novak Djokovic greeted the press before the duel. And joked: “I am not as handsome as Nicholas Cage. But am ready to try your national costume on myself today”.

“You speak Russian, and I know this language a little bit. It is my first time in Kazakhstan, in this beautiful city. Thanks to Nadal that he will play against me again”, said Djokovic. “It is important for our sports that such person as Bulat Utemuratov renders support to tennis”.

The winner of the charity match was Rafael Nadal. As per the regulations, the meeting was held in two sets. Nadal was stronger in the first one (6:3), and Djokovic played better in the second one (6:3). As a result, the winner was revealed in the tie-break which was completed with an 11:9 score in favour of the Spaniard.  

That is, everyone can play tennis, can’t they?

Currently the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation provides full financial support for about 50 leading young tennis players all over Kazakhstan: the Federation covers costs, funds processes, starting from provision of equipment (balls, court nets), court rentals, engagement of trainers, teachers, English language classes, catering and even trips abroad for competitions.

Parents to note: every big oblast centre now has its own professional trainers who are ready to reveal and train new Jokovics and Sharapovs. As the Tennis Federation is convinced that the brightest sports diamonds are hidden off the beaten track. There is an infrastructure established for this, strong trainer teams gathered and an opportunity to regularly participate in tournaments not only in Kazakhstan, but on the international arena provided.

Winners of the RoK Tennis Championship among children under 10 years old / Photo by

In 2019 the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation organised and successfully held over 40 international tournaments of ATF, ITF and ATP ChallengerTour series, having received a high evaluation of the tournament organisation from the International and Asian Tennis Federations. There were also over 100 tournaments of the Republican scale and 120 “Tennis under 10” tournaments held, including the culminating championship of Kazakhstan in contemplation of the most memorable match of the year –the clash of the titans Nadal and Djokovic.

Zarina Zhakupova.

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