Year: 2023

The evolution of tennis: From gender restrictions to equality and accessibility

By Bulat Utemuratov: Originating on the groomed gardens of aristocratic Britain in the nineteenth century and preserved for decades as a pastime for predominately male elites, the modern game of lawn tennis is today a powerful driver in helping to overcome gender and socio-economic barriers in society.

Wimbledon — the world’s oldest tennis tournament — may have opened its doors to female competitors in 1884, but the birth of professional women’s tennis had to wait almost another century to get its proper start. It was American tennis star Billie Jean King who helped formalize professional women’s tennis when in 1970 she, along with eight other players, kick-started what would become the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) with a tour of women-only tournaments.

This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formal incorporation of the WTA and the 60th anniversary of the Billie Jean King Cup, tennis is one of the most gender-balanced sports in the world. Around 41% of all tennis players are women and nine of the ten highest-paid female athletes in the world are tennis players. This is a testament to the enormous achievements of individual tennis players, as well as the sport itself, which has become much more equal.

With the 2023 U.S. Open underway, we should also note another significant anniversary — this year marks 50 years since the tournament started to offer equal prize money for men and women in 1973, becoming the first of the four Grand Slams to do so.

Nevertheless, problems with gender equality remain an issue for global tennis. For instance, only one in five coaches are women, and women make up just 22% of certified officials. It is vital to continue working to ensure girls and women have the opportunity to reach their full potential in every sphere of tennis, around the world.

In Kazakhstan, we prioritize the inclusion of girls in tennis. It offers a safe, non-contact, low-injury sport and today in the country, 55% of all children that play tennis are girls. This strategy has been a success, with Kazakh tennis players achieving impressive results at many levels. Under-12 girls teams won the Asian team championship three times, and this year the Under-16 team reached the finals of the Junior Billie Jean King Cup. Previous stars Asiya Dair and Madina Rakhim had strong results in junior grand slams, and are now being followed by the likes of Aruzhan Sagandikova and Sandugash Kenzhibayeva. And of course, I have to mention the continued success of the adult team, led by last year’s Wimbledon Champion, Elena Rybakina.

But in order to make tennis a truly public sport, I am deeply convinced of the need to eliminate not only gender, but financial and physical barriers. As vice president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), I set myself the goal of finding and implementing systematic solutions to eliminate barriers to participation, and we are focused on developing an inclusive international tennis ecosystem around the world. We are creating and financing international tournaments for children under 12 years of age, so that young sportsmen can gain the necessary skills for a proper professional start, and we are working to increase the overall level of income for tennis. 

The reason we are focusing on children in this age group is quite simple: Up to the age of 12 is a critical period of development and one where the requirements are high. Children need international tournament practice, but most do not have access to the kinds of resources needed for such trips. We’ve targeted our support on the five most in-need regions: Africa, Asia, South America, the Caribbean and Oceania. Over the past six years, we’ve invested more than $3 million into regional Under-12 team championships for players from these parts of the world, with more than 10,000 total participants. The tournaments allowed many young tennis players to showcase themselves and their skills, and go on to win financial support from sponsors.

This work needs to be continued on an institutional basis. At the moment, funding for tournaments and player trips makes up $7 million of the ITF’s budget. It’s clear that the needs are much higher than this. For comparison, FIFA’s investment in the global development of sport and education amounted to more than $2.5 billion between 2019-2022.

From my experience in Kazakhstan, I can say that our investment and following global best practice are bearing fruit. Today, Kazakhstan is among the top 20 countries in the world in terms of tennis development. The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation has made a lot of efforts to turn tennis into a universally accessible sport by investing in infrastructure, reducing costs for court access and training, and providing professional and financial assistance to the male and female tennis stars of the future.

It is also necessary to create the best possible conditions for people with disabilities to play tennis. With this in mind, the ITF allocated $375,000 last year to launch a program for the development of wheelchair tennis. For this initiative to be successful, the active involvement of national tennis associations is a must, and wheelchair tennis must be better integrated into tournaments. Once again I’m heartened by developments in Kazakhstan, with inclusive tennis becoming more and more popular across the country. In March, the first Kazakhstan Wheelchair Tennis championship was held in Almaty, and tennis is the only wheelchair-based discipline within Kazakhstan’s Paralympics program. These are encouraging steps and demonstrate the potential for development — it is vital such efforts continue, not only in Kazakhstan but in other countries as well.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have contributed and continue to contribute to the development of tennis as an open, universal and inclusive sport. We’ve come a long way from the British garden lawns of the 1870s, and I look forward to seeing how much more we can do to continue opening the world of tennis up for generations to come.

Bulat Utemuratov is a businessman and philanthropist. He is vice president of the International Tennis Federation and president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation.


Bulat Utemuratov Foundation funds leadership training course for 24,000 Kazakh students

  • Bulat Utemuratov Foundation allocated $5 million for a five-year Young Leaders program in Kazakhstan
  • The annual Young Leaders Forum took place in Almaty with more than 500 students and teachers in attendance  
  • Students from three schools will get financial support for their innovative projects  

Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has allocated $5 million for its five-year Young Leaders program to develop leadership skills among school students in Grades 5-11 in Kazakhstan.

Bulat Utemuratov Foundation funded the 2023 Young Leaders Forum. (PRNewsfoto/Bulat Utemuratov Foundation)

Throughout the school year, the students attend elective classes, and participate in monthly mini-conferences and specialised training sessions. They also learn to use their soft skills, including leadership, critical thinking, communications, public speaking, teamwork, project management and negotiation. To date, more than 24,000 students from 110 participating schools have completed the Foundation’s leadership training courses.

Held in Almaty, the annual Young Leaders Forum was attended by more than 500 students and teachers. The students had the opportunity to present and discuss the projects that they have been working on. Bulat Utemuratov Foundation announced the three winners which will receive support from its dedicated fund.

The winning projects were selected from nearly 1,500 entries. This year’s winners aim to provide valuable learning experiences and include a pottery workshop, a history of Kazakhstan in comic book format and a project facilitating access to career advice services.

Marat Aitmagambetov, Director of Bulat Utemuratov Foundation, commented: “I am proud to see the Young Leaders Forum program continue to grow and inspire students across Kazakhstan. The three winning projects from this year’s Forum showcase the creativity and innovative thinking of our young leaders and demonstrate the impact that this program can have on their education and personal development. We are committed to supporting the next generation of leaders in Kazakhstan and look forward to seeing the continued success of the program in years to come.”

Photo –

SOURCE: Bulat Utemuratov Foundation


– Narxoz University included in prestigious QS World University Rankings for the first time

– Placed at #1201-1400, Narxoz scored highly on employment outcomes, academic reputation, citations per faculty and international faculty

– Follows further recent recognition from QS Stars and the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings

 Narxoz University, a leading private university in Almaty, the Republic of Kazakhstan, is pleased to announce its inclusion in the QS World University Rankings.

Placed at #1201-1400, this is the first time that Narxoz University has been included in the prestigious rankings, which cover almost 1,500 institutions from around the world. The rankings are based on a range of factors, with Narxoz scoring highly on employment outcomes, academic reputation, citations per faculty and international faculty.

Narxoz University Campus

This recognition builds on Narxoz’s recent successes, when earlier this month the university became the 111th university to receive 4 stars out of 5 (“Very Good”) from QS Stars, based on a qualitative and quantitative assessment.

In June, Narxoz was also ranked in British publication Times Higher Education’s Impact Rankings 2023 at 601-800 for the quality of its education. The ranking includes 1,591 universities from 112 countries, which are evaluated on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This performance reflects the international opportunities the university offers through its partnerships with renowned institutions including Penn State University, Mykolas Romeris University, and Coventry University. Narxoz University is a non-profit organization, supported by its sole shareholder Bulat Utemuratov, with all proceeds reinvested into the university.

Miras Daulenov, the President of Narxoz University, commented: “Inclusion by QS reaffirms that Narxoz is on the path towards academic excellence. We are focused on delivering quality education to the highest international standards, providing the best facilities for study and opportunities for student advancement. This result is evidence of our rapid progress.”

Sergei Khristoliubov, QS Regional Director, said: “Congratulations to the management, faculty and students of Narxoz University on their entry in the ranking of the best universities in the world – QS World University Rankings. This is a significant milestone in Narxoz’s history and a result of the hard work of its amazing team. We wish you every success in your ambitions plans and educational projects.”

SOURCE Narxoz University

Kazakhstan Tennis Federation: Kazakh Tennis Player Wins Prestigious ATP 500 title, Soars in World Rankings

Kazakhstan’s No. 1 and the leader of the national men’s team, Alexander Bublik, has won a prestigious Terra Wortmann Open tennis tournament in Halle, Germany.

In the final, Bublik defeated the world’s No. 7, Russian Andrey Rublev, in a hard-fought match – 6:3, 3:6, 6:3. The game was played on grass and lasted 1 hour and 35 minutes. Bublik has aced 21 times and won two break points out of six.

Alexander Bublik with the Terra Wortmann Open Cup.   Source: Terra Wortmann Open Tournament
Alexander Bublik with the Terra Wortmann Open Cup. Source: Terra Wortmann Open Tournament

Bulat Utemuratov, President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, commented on Bublik’s success by saying: “Congratulations to Alexander Bublik on the next step in his tennis career – the first ATP 500 title. He achieved a great victory for himself and for the sake of tennis development in our country, as he is a role model for the younger generation.”

It is a second major career ATP singles title for the Kazakh tennis player and his first success at an ATP-500 tournament.

With the Terra Wortmann Open victory, he climbed to his highest-ever 26th place in the ATP rankings. His earlier highest ranking was No 30 achieved in February 2022.

Mr Utemuratov also noted “On his way to the final match, [Bublik] took over some very strong opponents, and in the final, with a maximum effort, he defeated world’s No 7, Andrey Rublev. I wish our No 1 player, Alexander Bublik, further success and new achievements!”


Kazakhstan Tennis Federation: Elena Rybakina Enters Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia List, Reaches No. 4 in World Tennis Rankings After the Italian Open Win

Elena Rybakina, Kazakhstan’s top tennis player, made it to the Forbes’s 30 Under 30 Asia list, cementing her position as one of the most outstanding young athletes in the Asia-Pacific region. The tennis star rose to the 4th place in the world’s tennis rankings after winning the Italian Open Tournament in Rome on May 20.

Elena Rybakina, Photocredits: Andrey Udartsev, The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (PRNewsfoto/Kazakhstan Tennis Federation)

The list features 300 young entrepreneurs, leaders and trailblazers across the region, all under the age of 30, who are effecting positive change and driving innovation amid global economic uncertainty and a challenging environment.

Rybakina was one of the 30 notable honorees selected for the Entertainment & Sports category, Forbes reported in a statement. The list features a total of 10 categories, each represented by 30 honorees. More than 4,000 candidates were evaluated by the Forbes Asia team and a panel of expert judges on a variety of factors, including funding and/or revenue, social impact, inventiveness, and potential.

Rybakina became the first Kazakhstani player to win a major tennis title when she secured victory at the Wimbledon tournament in July 2022. On Saturday she has won her second WTA 1000 title at the 2023 Italian Open in Rome after defeating Angelina Kalinina in the final match. In March this year, she has won her first WTA 1000 title at the Indian Wells tournament where she has sealed victory in the final match over then world’s No. 2 Arina Sabalenka of Belarus.

In the beginning of this year, the 23-year-old tennis star donated part of her income from the matches to junior tennis players and to dog-rescue program in Kazakhstan. 

Kazakhstan Tennis Federation


Kazakstan Tennis Federation: Kazakhstan Junior Boys and Girls Teams Reach Under 16 World Championship Finals

ASTANA, Kazakhstan, May 15, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — For the first time in the country’s history, the Kazakhstan Junior Boys and Girls Tennis Teams made it to the 16 and under World Championship Finals. The finals will be held in the Autumn in Cordoba, Spain, where the girls will compete in the Junior Billie Jean King Cup and the boys in the Junior Davis Cup.

The Asia Oceania Qualifying events were held in Kazakhstan for the first time in the Beeline Tennis Center in Shymkent. The boys and girls teams performed exceptionally against some very strong tennis nations. The girls team first beat Chinese Taipei in the quarter finals and followed this with a milestone win against Australia, five-time Junior Billie Jean King champions. The team lost only to Japan 2-1 in a hard-fought final match decided by the doubles. The Kazakh boys team fought their way through a tough group beating Uzbekistan, Chinese Taipei, and New Zealand to qualify for the quarter finals where they beat six-time champions, Australia, 2-0 to qualify for the World Finals.

Kazakhstan Junior Girls team: team captain Yaroslava Shvedova, Ariana Gogulina, Polina Sleptsova, and Anastasia Krymkova

Bulat Utemuratov, President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, congratulated the teams:

“Congratulations to our boys and girls and to the captains for making it to the World finals of these flagship ITF junior team events for the first time. This is an incredible achievement, reflecting on all of the hard work of our young players and their coaches and the KTF player development team”. Bulat Utemuratov also noted; “This success of the junior national teams, shows how much the level of tennis has improved and provides the motivation for KTF to continue investing in the development of tennis in Kazakhstan. It inspires our younger players to keep practicing and striving for international success”.

Kazakhstan Junior Boys team: vice-president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation Dias Doskarayev, team captain Sergey Kvak, Zangar Nurlanuly, Amir Omarkhanov, and Damir Zhalgasbay

The up-and-coming stars on Kazakhstan’s girls junior team were Ariana Gogulina, Polina Sleptsova, and Anastasia Krymkova. The boys team included Amir Omarkhanov, Zangar Nurlanuly, and Damir Zhalgasbay. The captains of the teams were Yaroslava Shvedova, former Grand Slam Champion, and top coach Sergey Kvak. The National Teams to participate in the World Championship Finals will be announced by KTF in September.  

The Junior Billie Jean King Cup and the Junior Davis Cup, organized annually by the International Tennis Federation, are the most important international team competitions for tennis players aged 16 and under.


Kazakhstan celebrates global Autism Awareness Month – Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

May 5, 2023 – ‘Bulat Utemuratov Foundation’ celebrated global Autism Awareness Month in Kazakhstan with an innovative hybrid communication campaign and an inspiring level of engagement. From digital street boards to photo exhibitions in public spaces and other original events, the Foundation contributed to the global effort to raise autism awareness.

Bulat Utemuratov Foundation
Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

“In 2022, there were 12,087 children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in Kazakhstan. Like people without a diagnosis, people with ASD have strengths, weaknesses, and unique talents. Our mission is to help them cultivate and manage those qualities so that they can actively participate in society and lead fulfilling lives,” said Dr. Almaz Sharman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Bulat Utemuratov Foundation.

The Foundation kicked off its autism awareness campaign by inaugurating its 12th and largest autism center in Astana, which will have the capacity to host 900 children per year. The Asyl Miras Autism Centers provide early intervention programs for children with autism up to 18 years of age. Over 15,000 children have received help as part of the program since 2015.

Additionally, Bulat Utemuratov Foundation organized a photo exhibition in a mall in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, offering visitors a closer look at the lives of children with ASD. The Foundation also teamed up with the urban innovation company Citix to set up smartboards in Almaty and Astana streets that provide information on autism symptoms, and advice for parents. 

Online, the Foundation ran a series of interviews with autism experts that were published on social media, debunking myths about autism and sharing ways in which society can become more inclusive.

With the aim of raising awareness about autism and promoting an inclusive culture, the Foundation hosts the annual “Autism. The World of Opportunities” international conference in Almaty. In 2022, world-renowned experts like Connie Kasari and Stephen Shore took part in the conference. In April 2023, the Foundation shared its experience in implementing evidence-based practices in autism centers in Kazakhstan at the International Conference for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ICAN) in Dubai. To advance global knowledge about autism, the Foundation also supported this year’s Annual Meeting of INSAR (International Society for Autism Research) in Stockholm.


One for all and all for tennis: How social inclusion is putting Kazakhstan on the world tennis map

Source: Elena Rybakina celebrates with the The Venus Rosewater Dish following victory over Ons Jabeur in The Final of the Ladies’ Singles on day thirteen of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Saturday July 9, 2022.

Bulat Utemuratov – a former diplomat, businessman, philanthropist and the current President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation – on Kazakhstan’s tennis boom and how they are paying it forward by changing lives for the better.

Every sport has its reputation. Many in the world share the view that tennis is a sport for the wealthy. You might think so too, especially if you were raised in the Soviet Union, like I was. Today, however, we can seriously argue against this.

It’s important to look at tennis from different angles. It’s true that it was once a sport exclusively for the wealthy and is associated with significant financial expenses when it comes to training, infrastructure, court fees, etc. Often these expenses fall on the shoulders of individual tennis players or on families whose children want to play professional tennis. There has typically been a gap between those who want to play, whether for leisure or to reach the professional summit, and those who can afford to do so.

On the other hand, however, this situation is gradually changing. Countries are employing different approaches to fill the accessibility gap from state subsidies to corporate sponsorships. The United States, for example is known for raising private capital, while Norway is known for its government funding. The UK’s LTA also released its inclusion strategy in 2021 in an effort to make tennis more diverse and accessible.

New countries are appearing on the tennis map, and Kazakhstan, which hosted the ATP500 tournament in 2022, has joined the ranks. Many wonder how Kazakhstan, a country with no tennis heritage, managed to become a tennis capital in the time span of a decade? The answer lies in social inclusion.

The price of one hour of tennis in Kazakhstan today is just under $10. A month’s worth of tennis classes is cheaper than ballet or gymnastics, but getting there wasn’t easy. We had to do a lot to make tennis an accessible sport.

While the Soviet Union provided generous funding for athleticism, tennis was not a priority recipient. By the time Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991, tennis was practically nonexistent in the country. To make matters worse, in the 1990’s one hour of tennis in Kazakhstan cost approximately $50 while the gross average monthly wage at the time was equivalent to $100.

Fortunately, Kazakhstan managed to become one of the most advanced post-Soviet economies, but despite this achievement, by 2007, our tennis federation was experiencing severe crisis. We sought every opportunity we could to turn the situation around.

Since 2007, around $250 million state and private investments have gone into building infrastructure, launching tennis programs for kids, and supporting talent within and beyond borders.

We’ve achieved a fivefold increase in the number of tennis courts, which are now enjoyed by 33,000 children and adults on average, compared to less than 2,000 players a little over a decade ago. The increase in players is a direct result of making tennis more affordable, more popular, and more inclusive.

We created an accessible platform to nurture professional tennis players. Team Kazakhstan is Kazakhstan’s first fully funded tennis school providing training, accommodation, meals, and education for junior players. As a result, 2022 marked the first year that Kazakhstan participated in the ITF’s junior events like the Junior Davis Cup and the Junior Billie Jean Cup. With our unending support and their relentless determination, we turned tennis fans into world class champions.

Kazakhstan is a multi-ethnic country that provides opportunity for its own nationals, as well as for international players who have chosen to represent Kazakhstan abroad. Last year, Elena Rybakina, who also made it to the 2023 Australian Open finals and rose to world No 7 on the WTA Ranking after her win at Indian Wells WTA 1000, was the first Kazakhstani player to win a Wimbledon trophy, and we bet she won’t be the last. Rybakina paid it forward: she decided to allocate a portion of her $100,000 prize money to support junior players and to help relieve animal homelessness. When she was offered an award from the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, she turned it down, requesting that it be reinvested in support of future players.

When it comes to future players, KTF does not believe in limits. In 2022, we organized our first national wheelchair tennis championship, and inclusion doesn’t stop at the tennis court.

During the latest ATP500, which was held in Kazakhstan for the first time, tennis stars Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime spent a day with the children at the Asyl Miras Autism Center in Astana.

By fostering connections between sport and autism, we aim to turn sport and tennis in particular, into a tool for social inclusion for those who face difficulty integrating in our society.

Kazakhstan has seen a real tennis boom in recent years, and we plan to keep going in that direction. Ultimately, it is not simply access to a tennis court that makes tennis more inclusive. It’s about something greater: our common aspiration to change lives for the better, open-mindedness, willingness to help those who are seeking for help, and values that we think are important and adhere to no matter what.


Türkiye’s Embassy Extends Gratitude to Kazakh People for Support in Aftermath of Earthquake

By Dana Omirgazy in International on 14 April 2023

ASTANA – Turkish Ambassador to Kazakhstan Mustafa Kapucu extended gratitude to Kazakhstan’s citizens and organizations for the support and emergency assistance provided to the Turkish people after the Feb. 6 devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, reported the embassy. 

Turkish Embassy in Kazakhstan

The Kazakh people and organizations donated over $10 million to Türkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, said Kapucu, addressing an iftar (fast-breaking evening meal) reception at his residence on April 10.

Besides financial aid, Kazakh citizens provided humanitarian assistance. The Kazakh health workers from the Disaster Medicine Center and canine teams were among the first to depart for Türkiye and immediately commence search and rescue operations.

The Kazakh citizens provided emergency supplies, including diesel generators, tents, blankets, and sleeping bags, which were delivered by Turkish Airlines aircraft to charity organizations in Türkiye.

“We highly appreciate this significant and timely support which continues the tradition of cooperation and mutual assistance between our fraternal peoples,” said Kapucu, who began his mission in Kazakhstan in April.

The ambassador thanked ‘Bulat Utemuratov Foundation’ for its $5 million donation. The foundation has been donating funds to victims of natural disasters in Kazakhstan and supporting other social programs since 2014. 

The devastating earthquake in southeast Türkiye killed at least 45,000 people and destroyed or severely damaged more than 160,000 buildings, leaving millions homeless. The World Bank estimated the damage from the earthquake to be at $34 billion.


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