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.
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.