Month: December 2023

Bulat Utemuratov has turned Kazakhstan tennis into a model of success

Bulat Utemuratov, president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation and member of the ITF Board, has been one of the main architects of the incredible tennis improvements that his country has experienced in recent years.

Utemuratov, recently re-elected to his third term, is turning Kazakhstan into a real presence in the global game. The country has become one of the top 20 in the world, in terms of tennis development.

A clear example of this dynamism was undoubtedly demonstrated by the recent successes of Elena Rybakina, winner of Wimbledon 2022 and finalist at the Australian Open 2023. The Kazakh tennis player reached the 3rd position of the WTA ranking, winning 5 titles, among which (in addition to Wimbledon) the prestigious WTA 1000 at Indian Wells and Rome. But Elena’s successes are just the tip of an iceberg that shows excellence on a structural level.

Tennis Kazakhstan data: Bulat Utemuratov’s commitment and investments

According to data provided to Tennis World USA by President Bulat Utemuratov’s press office, the game in the country has experienced a crescendo that has placed it among the world tennis elite. In Soviet times, tennis was almost non-existent in Kazakhstan. The game became a bit more popular in the 1990s, but the country had little success due to high barriers to entry.

Bulat Utemuratov became passionate about the sport and was elected president of the KTF in 2007, establishing a new strategy. He has invested more than $100 million of his personal wealth to build 38 tennis centers with 364 hard and clay courts in Kazakhstan.

Reducing the cost of renting courts from $50 an hour in 2007 to $10 an hour now has been another key part of his success. The Federation has trained 300 coaches and 500 instructors. And the numbers become even more impressive if you consider that the children playing tennis in Kazakhstan have gone from 900 in 2007 to 30,000 in 2023!

The first phase of the tennis development program involved the naturalization of players from other countries, including Yaroslava Shvedova, Yuri Schukin and latterly Elena Rybakina. This has created success and interest in the sport nationwide. At the same time, there has been greater focus and success in bringing forward a really promising group of young players (Kazakhstan’s junior team recently reached the semi-finals of the ITF World Junior competition).

Fulfilling Bulat Utemuratov’s dream, Kazakhstan has hosted ATP 250, WTF 250 and ATP 500 tournaments and has 7 ITF votes.


Kazakhstan showing tennis success without deep traditions in the sport

Kazakhstan, a country that prior to 2007 has almost never been associated with international tennis, has achieved such significant success in this sport in recent years that some have taken to calling it a tennis miracle. But the secret to this success is extremely simple — the effective use of limited resources and a systematic approach to training and fostering talent.

I have been both a witness and direct participant in the transformation of Kazakhstan into a tennis powerhouse, since joining the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation in 2020 as tennis director. Kazakhstan’s journey to tennis triumph began in 2007 when Bulat Utemuratov, a great fan of tennis, started leading the federation. He launched a project to build tennis centers all across the country, and now Kazakhstan boasts 38 modern tennis centers and 364 hard and clay courts. 

Utemuratov, who has been recently re-appointed as the ITF vice president for the 2023-27 term and elected as a member for the ITF board of directors, helped make tennis in Kazakhstan not only more accessible, but also laid the foundation for more widespread and thorough training of young talent. Since 2007, the average cost of court rental has fallen from $50 per hour to $10 per hour. The federation has prepared 300 coaches and 500 instructors to train children from an early age and now hosts more than 200 tournaments a year. The number of children playing tennis in Kazakhstan has soared — from just 900 in 2007 to over 30,000 in 2023, with the 3,500 most talented players receiving free training, equipment and support to participate in tournaments.

A common refrain is that success in tennis is determined by money. Of course, that is part of the story. But in Kazakhstan we have focused on the efficient use of our limited resources, and on establishing a system of training that is based on principles of the correct volume and quality of training and competition for each age. The system in place today is similar to the very successful player development system used by Italy and Canada.   

What does that mean in practice?

You always want more coaches, more courts and more funding. However, it is necessary to understand that it is not only the number of courts that matters, but that the courts you have are busy and actively being used to train the nation’s tennis stars of tomorrow. We pay great attention to this in our day-to-day work in Kazakhstan. 

In addition to the effective utilization of tennis infrastructure, effective work with players is also crucial — ranging from physical training and funding to putting in place the proper motivational structures. This is a huge amount of work that is often overlooked, but which the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation is dedicating time and resources to in order to establish a system that is capable of systematically producing world-class players.

We adopt the world’s best practices in our player development, and that’s why we believe it’s not the concrete place or country where the players train that matter, but the training program. Some of our players train inside Kazakhstan in one of our tennis centers and some are based outside of Kazakhstan. Wherever they are based, the federation makes sure to monitor each player to ensure that they are doing enough tennis and fitness training, playing enough matches against a variety of opponents and gaining experience on different surfaces. 

The implementation of this approach and the redistribution of resources has allowed the federation to provide more support to successful players and has already produced a number of promising juniors. Today, in every junior age group we have at least 6-7 players that are really talented and showing good results. 

The federation and its president have done a great job, not only in creating the necessary tennis infrastructure, but also providing the sport and the players with sponsors. Strong, nationally recognized companies, including the likes of ForteBank and mobile operator Beeline are investing their money in the development of the sport, enabling the federation to create its own tennis academy and finance players’ travel to tournaments. 

The federation also invests in identifying and tailoring coaching programs for talented players through the KTF’s targeted programs for under-14s and under-10s that operate in every tennis center. Federation supervisors attend all major tournaments at dedicated age groups, analyze the results of every player and see how they can best support the players and their coaches. Training one player from the age of 12 until 22, when they could become one of the best in the world, requires a significant investment and a lot of planning and organization. 

It is also important to note that we are establishing a training system that will work in the long term, regardless of who runs tennis in the country. When I started working for the federation as tennis director, I told Mr. Utemuratov that my main objective would be to make my job redundant in the future, and that the system we have developed will function and thrive without me.

Kazakhstan has already achieved a lot in developing tennis domestically, as the success of players in the international arena shows. Since 2010, the country has had significant success at the top professional tournaments and in the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. The country has now established a player development system based on proven world standards. Of course, the full-fledged functioning of the system needs some more time, as was the case in Italy and Canada, but I am very confident that in the near future it will produce new, successful top-level players in Kazakhstan. 

Kazakhstan serves as a good example of how a country without a deep tradition of tennis or producing tennis players can achieve great results in a relatively short period of time through passion and the great work of the federation’s president and by putting in place a systematic approach and sound strategy. This is a lesson that other federations can follow. 

Dave Miley is executive director of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation and an international tennis consultant.


Kazakhstan Tennis Federation celebrates another strong year, re-electing President Bulat Utemuratov and setting out ambitious plans

  • Strong 2023 for established and junior players, including US Open mixed doubles victory
  • Bulat Utemuratov re-elected KTF President, member of BoD and ITF Vice President; KTF’s Yuriy Polskiy elected President of Asian Tennis Federation
  • Successful ATP 250 Astana Open and ambitious plans to further develop tennis in Kazakhstan in 2024

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, Dec. 14, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (the “KTF” or “Federation”) has held its annual conference in Astana to review the results of 2023 and outline plans for the upcoming year.

Kazakhstan’s women’s team with the KTF Officials (Pictured from Left to Right): Dias Doskarayev, the Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation; Janel Rustemova; Gozal Ainitdinova; Yulia Putintseva; Bulat Utemuratov, the President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation; Anna Danilina; Elena Rybakina; Yaroslava Shvedova, Captain of Kazakhstan’s women’s tennis team - Image Credit: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation

Kazakhstan’s women’s team with the KTF Officials (Pictured from Left to Right): Dias Doskarayev, the Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation; Janel Rustemova; Gozal Ainitdinova; Yulia Putintseva; Bulat Utemuratov, the President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation; Anna Danilina; Elena Rybakina; Yaroslava Shvedova, Captain of Kazakhstan’s women’s tennis team – Image Credit: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation

The conference, which brought together heads of regional branches and tennis centers, as well as officials from the KTF head office, also included the election of the Federation’s president, resulting in Bulat Utemuratov’s tenure being extended for another four years. This follows Mr. Utemuratov’s re-election as member of Board of Directors and Vice President of the International Tennis Federation for the 2023-2027 term earlier this month.

2023 marked another successful year for Kazakhstan’s tennis players, with notable achievements from the juniors. For the first time in history, both the boys’ and girls’ national teams qualified for the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup world team championships for players under 16.

Elena Rybakina had a stellar year, reaching the final of the 2023 Australian Open, winning two WTA 1000 series tournaments and finishing the year in fourth place in the world rankings.

More broadly, the women’s national team continued to perform strongly, reaching the final stage of the Billie Jean King Cup for the second consecutive year and ranking 9th in the world.

Anna Danilina, the country’s leading female doubles player, won the US Open mixed doubles title, giving Kazakhstan its first mixed doubles victory at the Grand Slam tournament.

In the men’s game, Alexander Bublik had a successful season, winning the ATP 250 in Antwerp and the ATP 500 in Halle. Doubles players Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Andrey Golubev also secured their first ATP 250 titles, while the men’s national team retained its place in the Davis Cup World Group, ranking 14th.

Kazakhstan held the ATP 250 Astana Open tournament for the third time, with Almaty set to host the event next year. The Federation also has ambitious goals as it continues to build new tennis facilities, enhance coaching qualifications, support junior players and develop the domestic game.


Bulat Utemuratov Foundation marks another successful year with prestigious philanthropy award

  • Bulat Utemuratov named Philanthropist of the Year 2023 by the Kazakhstan Growth Forum, in recognition of social projects
  • Continued focus on autism, recently opening 13th Asyl Miras Autism Center in Semey
  • Other notable projects include opening new school Kosshy city, with plans for two more schools in Almaty region and construction of Kyzylorda airport terminal underway
  • Humanitarian relief program includes donations to Turkey earthquake victims and families of Kostenko mine disaster in Kazakhstan

ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Dec. 12, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has completed another successful year with Bulat Utemuratov, the organization’s founder, recently named Philanthropist of the Year 2023 by the Kazakhstan Growth Forum.

The award is in recognition of the Foundation’s social projects, having provided $150 million for healthcare, education, infrastructure and cultural projects in Kazakhstan. The results were unveiled at a charity event in Almaty where independent members of the Kazakhstan Growth Forum’s Expert Council selected winners across 13 categories.  

Photo Credit: Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

Photo Credit: Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

The key initiative of Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has been its work in the field of autism, and most recently the Foundation, with the assistance of the Akimat of the Abay region, opened its 13th Asyl Miras Autism Center in Semey, Kazakhstan.

The new center will employ 15 specialists and educate up to 300 children a year, with classes aligned with the “Autism. One World for All” six intervention programs. It will provide tailored support for each child, with each three-month cycle of work based on their specific needs following diagnosis. Seven classrooms at the center are fully equipped with furniture, inventory and teaching aids.

The Foundation’s “Asyl Miras” autism centers have been operating for nine years, educating 16,000 children throughout Kazakhstan free of charge. They adopt cutting-edge practices and partner with recognized experts including the Kasari Lab at the University of California, the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta, and the international organization Autism Speaks.

Other notable projects of the Foundation in 2023 include the construction and opening of a new school in the city of Kosshy for 3,000 pupils, along with commencing construction of an 8,500 square meter community center. In 2024, the Foundation plans to commission two more schools in the Almaty region, in the cities of Issyk and Shelek. The Foundation continues to support the construction of a new airport terminal in Kyzylorda, to be completed in the spring of 2024.

Humanitarian relief is another focus, and during 2023 the Foundation donated $5 million to victims of the earthquake in Turkey, along with $1 million to support families of victims of the Kostenko mine disaster in Kazakhstan’s Karaganda region. The Foundation also provides regular assistance to Kazakhstanis affected by natural disasters under its “Aid Card” program.

In addition, Bulat Utemuratov supports cultural projects such as the Batyrkhan Shukenov Foundation and the Kulanshi Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Almaz Sharman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Bulat Utemuratov Foundation, commented: “In the last decade, Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has had a significant impact on several areas, including infrastructure, healthcare, education, and cultural initiatives. Notably, its dedication to supporting individuals with autism has been remarkable. The journey began with the establishment of the inaugural autism center in Almaty, which has since expanded into a successful network. The positive changes in children’s lives and social abilities have been inspiring, greatly assisting their integration into society and helping them adapt to challenges. These initiatives underscore Kazakhstan’s dedication to fostering a fair and inclusive society.”


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