This summer Kazakhstani tennis players Mikhail Kukushkin and Yelena Rybakina became quite a discovery at prestigious international tournaments. Firstly, they have beaten their own records. Secondly, their victories allowed Kazakhstan to step up to the new level in the world rating of tennis – and now our country is not just “mediocre”, but a hard nut to crack.
Mikhail Kukushkin has been playing for Kazakhstan from summer 2008. Just ten years ago he was the 157th in the world rating, now he is the 57th. Following his move to the Kazakhstan team, his career as a professional sportsman started boosting. By his 32 years he has become:
This July he brilliantly played at the Wimbledon Championships. These competitions held on the grass court are among the four international Grand Slam tournaments.
His first game in singles with Spaniard Pablo Andujar (winner of four ATP tournaments in singles and one junior Grand Slam tournament in doubles, former fifth racket of the world in junior ranking) took place on 2 July. The game ended in favour of the Kazakhstani.
On 4 July Mikhail Kukushkin met with the 12th racket of the world – American tennis player John Isner (semi-finalist of one Big Slam tournament in singles; winner of 19 ATP tournaments; former eighth racket of the world in the singles rating). In this game the Kazakhstani has beaten his own record – took a victory over the opponent whom he couldn’t outcompete in four previous games. The duel lasted 3 hours 10 minutes and ended in favour of our tennis player.
“It’s a sensation!”, – commented on the victory Dias Doskarayev, Vice President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation. “Firstly, Isner defeated Kukushkin four times and never lost to him. Secondly, the American holds the 12th line in the ATP rating. Thirdly, in 2018 John has reached the Wimbledon semifinals where he lost only to South African Kevin Anderson in the five-set duel. No one wants to challenge Isner – he is a very strong player. So, Mikhail gained an outstanding victory. He fought for every ball served by Isner, that is why he was successful.”
Mikhail Kukushkin repeated his own record of 2014 – he, for the second time, became the participant of the third round in singles in Wimbledon.
On 6 July the Kazakhstani met with German Jan-Lennard Struff (the 33rd racket of the world). Earlier Mikhail competed with him on the court three times. And all three times was overcome by the German tennis player. But for the fourth time our sportsman downed Jan-Lennard Struff, becoming, for the first instance in his career, the participant of the fourth round in singles at Wimbledon.
The next game in the Grand Slam tournament which Mikhail Kukushkin held was with an equally titled tennis player – Japanese Kei Nishikori (finalist of one Grand Slam tournament, winner of 12 ATP tournaments, bronze medalist of the 2016 Olympic Games). Before that, the Kazakhstani played with him nine times. The tenth time was not in favour of Mikhail Kukushkin.
However, his achievements at Wimbledon-2019 are the best result in his career of Grand Slam tournaments. Mikhail Kukushkin became the first Kazakhstani tennis player who managed to enter the fourth round of Wimbledon and the only one from the CIS countries who played in the 1/8 of the Grand Slam tournament.
Yelena Rybakina is a young tennis player who has begun playing for Kazakhstan just recently (since June 2018). She is the European champion in U18 junior team championship. She became the third racket of the country in singles and performs so successfully that might be able to bypass the first racket of Kazakhstan. Semifinalist of the Australian Open and Roland Garros among juniors, four-time champion of the ITF series tournaments.
In July 2019 Yelena Rybakina successfully performed at the Bucharest Open Tennis Championship where she managed to win her first WTA title.
In the first game, Yelena Rybakina downed Spaniard Paula Badosa (winner of three ITF tournaments, former eighth racket of the world in the junior ranking, winner of one junior Grand Slam tournament in singles). The next meeting on the court was with Romanian Jacqueline Cristian. The duel ended in favour of the Kazakhstani.
In the quarter-finals, Yelena Rybakina won the game against Victoria Kuzmova from Slovakia (US Open doubles junior champion). In the semifinals, the Kazakhstani continued her winning pace, defeating Italian Martina Di Giuseppe.
In the finals, she met with Romanian Patricia Maria Tig. The mistress of the court could not win a single set, losing the victory to the young Kazakhstani tennis player.
“This Kazakhstani tennis player is the fourth among the youngest champions of 2019 women’s tour and the fourth sports lady who gained the title losing no single set. Thanks to her victory at the Bucharest championship, Yelena Rybakina entered the top-70 of the world rating and continues her ascent to the summit of the tournament table”, – wrote Russian mass media about the overwhelming success of Yelena Rybakina (link: https://tennis–bet.ru/news/rybakina–chempionka–wta–buharest/)
After her triumph performance in Bucharest, she stormed into the top-100 of the world rating and is now the second racket of the country.
Such summits have yet never been conquered by Kazakhstan. Our tennis players showed Kazakhstan as a strong “average” in the world arena.
Since 2007, a huge number of tennis centres, academies, courts have been built in regions of Kazakhstan so that the young generation could honourably represent Kazakhstan at international tournaments using Grand Slam as an example.
Hardly any other country in the world, except Kazakhstan, is now experiencing such a tennis boom. The victories of Mikhail Kukushkin and Yelena Rybakina demonstrate that the Tennis Federation, headed by Bulat Utemuratov, has created excellent conditions for professional growth of promising tennis players. Thanks to such achievements, top tennis players of the world level are beginning to understand that there will definitely be no easy game with representatives of Kazakhstan.