Month: February 2024

New era for tennis in Kazakhstan as juniors reach international level

Yuriy Polskiy, Vice President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation and President of the Asian Tennis Federation – Photo Credit | KTF

Elena Rybakina’s victory at Wimbledon in 2022 was a milestone for tennis in Kazakhstan. Her success caused a mixed reaction, however, raising questions among many observers.

Where were all the tennis players who had been developed in Kazakhstan? Would any of the juniors trained at tennis centres across the country be able to play for national teams, and did Kazakhstan even have a pool of homegrown talent?

To answer these questions, you just need to look at the world rankings. Ten Kazakhstanis finished the 2023 season in the top 100. While some of the players that compete for Kazakhstan in the professional rankings were born elsewhere, all the players in the junior rankings were born and trained in Kazakhstan. Amir Omarkhanov, who in 2024 became the first Kazakh player to ever reach the Australian Open Junior Championship quarterfinals, is ranked 16th in the ITF junior rankings, and Asylzhan Arystanbekova, who made it to the quarterfinals at the junior doubles tournament this year is ranked 53th.  

In 2022, Kazakhstan’s 14U team competed for the first time at a world team championship, where they reached the semi-finals. At the Billie Jean King Cup Juniors Finals in Córdoba, Spain, the Kazakhstani team finished in 9th place among the best 16 teams in the world. This was the first-ever world championship competition for Kazakhstan’s 16U girls team. Meanwhile, the 16U boys team also finished in the top 10 at their debut world championship.  Even back in 2021, juniors from Kazakhstan won a record 37 ITF Juniors tournaments in singles and doubles and reached the finals in 44 others. In Tennis Europe 14 & Under tournaments, players from Kazakhstan won 19 tournaments and reached the finals in 15 more.

These achievements would not have been possible, of course, without proper training and, most importantly, accessible infrastructure. Players who are now 14–16 years old began playing tennis about 10 years ago. Bulat Utemuratov, President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (KTF), played a key role in making tennis accessible to children when he became head of the Federation in 2007. Not long after taking over leadership of the KTF, Utemuratov spearheaded an ambitious effort to build state-of-the-art tennis facilities across the country. Home to only 7 tennis centres and 60 courts in 2007, Kazakhstan now boasts 48 modern facilities with 364 courts, most of which are indoors.  

According to the KTF, the average hourly cost for court rental has decreased from $50 in 2007 to $10 at present. The number of children playing tennis has grown from 900 in 2007 to 30,000 in 2023, and 3,500 of the most talented young players are given an opportunity to train free of charge and have access to the equipment they need as well as tournament support.

In addition to building the required infrastructure, the KTF has also been active at every level, starting with grassroots tennis for 5–7-year-olds.

A great deal of attention is paid to the 10 & Under Tennis project, where children learn the foundations for further growth. KTF experts attend the main tournaments for players 10 and under in order to scout the most promising players in this age group. The Federation also has a targeted programme that provides financial support for more than 100 young players aged 11–14 years old from all over Kazakhstan.

In addition, an important part of the junior development system is the Team Kazakhstan Academy, which was created in 2008 for promising juniors 14 and up. More than 300 of the country’s most talented children, juniors and young tennis players have already passed through the Academy.

The results we have seen from our junior players suggest that investments in the development of tennis infrastructure and targeted programmes for children have helped make tennis in Kazakhstan more accessible and taken it to a qualitatively new level, while also laying a solid foundation for training talented young players. They are the ones who will represent Kazakhstan at professional tournaments in the future, and the country won’t have to bring players from elsewhere.


Bulat Utemuratov Foundation celebrates a decade serving Kazakhstan

ALMATY, Kazakhstan, Feb. 2, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — Since 2014, the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation has been steadfast in bringing together people, ideas, and resources to create valuable and sustainable solutions that move society forward. Today, it reviews its impact over the past decade and looks forward to making further progress.

Photo Credit: Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

Photo Credit: Bulat Utemuratov Foundation

In a decade characterized by COVID-19, natural disasters and geopolitical tensions, the Foundation has remained dynamic in allocating funds to those most in-need. During this time, it has implemented over 20 projects, and in 2023 alone spent around US$90 million on healthcare, education, infrastructure and disaster relief.

Education and culture remain central to the Foundation’s mission. Last year it funded the construction of a municipal school for 1,500 children in a suburb of Astana. Next year it will complete a public sports and cultural center of 8,500 sq m in the same area.

Other major projects include the Asyl Miras network of autism centers, which currently operate in 12 major cities across the country. Since then, the Foundation has helped 16,000 autistic children, supported by its partnerships with international experts including the Kasari Lab, and the Marcus Autism Center.

The Foundation has also provided housing for 650 families in need and financial assistance over US$2.6 million under the Aid Card program jointly with Red Crescent of Kazakhstan, to support victims of natural disasters, providing a unique case study for collaboration between non-governmental and private charity. In 2023 the Foundation provided disaster relief to victims of an earthquake in Turkey worth US$5 million and families of miners who died in the Kostenko mine worth US$1 million.

In 2024, the Foundation is set to complete construction of two more schools in the Almaty region and a new terminal for Kyzylorda Airport and donate them to society. It will also continue to contribute to school level educational development through the Young Leaders and Green School projects.

Dr. Almaz Sharman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bulat Utemuratov Foundation, commented: “The Foundation’s ten-year anniversary is testament to our dedication to improving the lives of Kazakhstanis. We initially focused on healthcare, education and culture, but now the breadth of activities has expanded, and we are proud of the Foundation’s progress. This anniversary inspires us to keep going and we are excited to achieve even more over the next decade.”


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