Yuriy Polskiy: Development of the Asian region will contribute to Kazakhstan’s progress

January 05, 2024

On December 12, 2023, the Vice-President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, Yuriy Polskiy, was elected President of the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF). The new ATF head spoke exclusively to Zakon.kz.

Photo Credit: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (KTF)

Yuriy Polskiy was elected President of the ATF by a majority vote – 34 out of 55 – at the ATF Annual General Meeting in Bangkok. Prevailing over the three other candidates from Thailand, Japan, and Sri Lanka, Polskiy has taken the helm of the organization for a four-year term. He has also become Chairman of the ATF Board of Directors, where he had served as Vice-President for the past four years.

– How do you feel after winning the ATF presidential election?

– I am very happy that we have been able to prove that Kazakhstan’s success in tennis development can be used for Asia. This was the main objective of my election strategy. It is not just talk or some abstract plans, but real results. We had great support from the national federations of other countries who we worked with. Many people know us personally, they know Bulat Utemuratov and me. They know that we are always looking to help with developing the game of tennis.

Everyone understands that it is not a political agenda for us, it is not a matter of prestige or getting an honorary position, but a global task to develop tennis. We have big plans, and everyone understands that if we put our name and reputation on the line, these plans will be implemented. This, in fact, was the basis for our victory.

– What was the most important factor in winning the election?

– We proposed certain initiatives. Some of them were suggested by me, they have received the Board of Directors’ approval, and are already being implemented. Everyone understood that we could do and achieve much more for the Asian Tennis Federation, but we would need to have all the powers, i.e. to meet with other national federations, with the governments of the countries, because many tennis regions do not have sufficient financial support from their states. It means you need to prove the need for tennis, to propose new projects and assets that will contribute to its development.

In Asia, I was known by my performance in Kazakhstan, where we cooperated on the exchange of umpires, held a lot of joint training camps in Kazakhstan, and organized them abroad when our players traveled. People saw that our tennis players, including our juniors, were progressing.

Many people suggested the nomination of Bulat Utemuratov – who has established himself in his role as the President of Kazakhstan Tennis Federation – for the position of President of the Asian Tennis Federation. However, Mr. Utemuratov claimed that one must be personally deeply involved in such work, travel a lot, and engage proactively. And as you know, he also has a lot of responsibilities as the Vice-President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF). We discussed that with him and he suggested that I run, offering me his support, so it was a joint decision. I decided to take a leap, and in the end, we received support and we got a good result.

– What opportunities will your presidency bring for the development of tennis in Kazakhstan and Asia?

– The most important thing is to improve interaction between Asian nations, and establish Kazakhstan as an attractive place for players. We want Asia’s best players to come to us, compete with our players, because only through competition and practice our players can grow and develop. In this respect, my presidency provides us with very good opportunities. I think there are very strong synergies as Asia needs proactive nations that are ready to host events and to invest in players’ travel to various tournaments. Kazakhstan has always been happy to host events at any level. At the same time, it is a good opportunity for players from Asia to gain international experience. It turns out that we are ideally suited for each other – the development of the Asian region will contribute to the development of Kazakhstan.

As for the plans of the Asian Tennis Federation, we will focus on attracting sponsors and resuming the tournament that we had before – the Asian Open Championship for all age groups. It is attractive for  media, moreover, and we could draw wild cards (WC) for the Australian Open, there is a possibility of such collaboration. So we need to resume this project, which we haven’t done for the last six years.

I have good relationships with the organizing committees of Grand Slam tournaments. We could hold «The Road to Wimbledon» and «Roland Garros Rendezvous» tournaments, which we had before. It will be an opportunity for our juniors to participate in the biggest tournaments, earn their first points and, most importantly, gain more experience.

– Could you please tell us more about the Asian Open Tennis Championship.

– This will be an annual two-stage tournament. At the first qualification stage all Asian nations have the right to put forward two boys and two girls. Thus, the whole continent is involved in this process, thereby maximizing coverage. The second stage is the final stage, where the top ranked Asian players get together with those who have qualified in the first stage. In this way, we give the best players in Asia the opportunity to play and compete together. We provide the prize money at the expense of the participating countries. Traditionally, such events get a good media coverage, television broadcasts, and they are attractive for sponsors who are willing to invest in the development of the Asian Tennis Federation.

The next meeting of the ATF Board of Directors will be held in January in Melbourne during the Australian Open. We will discuss the format of the tournament, which should be approved in the next one or two months. We intend to hold it in 2024, maybe in the autumn. We envisage the tournament will be held in different countries, with five to six countries participating as main organizers. We want to create a pool of the most involved nations which will make an annual contribution and alternately hold this tournament, ensuring the event is always held at a high level.

– Will Kazakhstan succeed in raising a world-class star like Elena Rybakina and Alexander Bublik? Rybakina and Bublik became successful playing in Kazakhstan, but would it be possible to avoid naturalization of players in the future?

– This year, Beibit Zhukayev made a big breakthrough – he moved up in the world ranking and became the No. 2 player in Kazakhstan. Of course, we have high expectations for him. Beibit, as the trainee of the Aktau school of tennis, has a very strong serve, stable forehand and backhand strokes. He moves well on the court. With his current level of play he has already beaten several players in the ATP TOP 100, which is a good indicator. I am sure that next year Zhukayev will help our national team in the Davis Cup and will continue to progress.

Speaking about the younger generation, Amir Omarkhanov is developing rapidly. Together with Zangar Nurlanuly, they achieved very good results at the Junior Davis Cup. Omarkhanov won all his matches, and defeated the best players from Spain and Italy. These successes give us hope and show that we have a good «reserve team of players». We, in turn, will help them to achieve their potential, while they have every chance to be the best in the world. The most important thing is that they develop consistently, do not lose momentum, and avoid injuries.

Among the girls we have Zhibek Kulambayeva, who is consistently playing for the national team. Of course, she is more into «doubles» play, but she has great potential in singles as well. Now we are trying to help her with the technical part, and she also needs to build up some competition experience. Zhibek has a good track record, and she defeated several strong opponents.

We also have very strong female junior players, such as Polina Sleptsova, Inkar Dyussebay and Anastassiya Krymkova. This year for, the first time, they reached the final of the Junior Billie Jean King Cup. Our girls played well at the tournament and got ranked in the top 10 countries in the world. And they are born and bred in Kazakhstan, they are all trainees of our school of tennis. Now they must try to maintain this momentum and continue playing at a very high level.

– Now there is a lot of talk about the transition of Russian Alexander Shevchenko to play for Kazakhstan. Will he play for us?

– Shevchenko has indeed long wished to play for Kazakhstan. He approached us with a proposal to play for our country. Alexander has long been training independently in Slovakia. He knows many of our players, understands how good our system is. He is aware of the special attention we pay to each member of the team and wants to be part of this team. Almost all the formalities have been finalized, and Alexander has applied for a Kazakh passport. Soon, he should be able to officially put the flag of Kazakhstan by his name in the ATP. However, he will only be able to play for our national team in the Davis Cup two years after gaining citizenship – this is common practice and regulation from the ITF.

– The Tennis Academy of Kazakhstan has existed since 2008. How can one get there, who can train there, and what is the selection system?

– It is quite easy to get into the Academy if you fulfill a number of conditions. They are very transparent. All the information is available on our official website, there are criteria that are required to get into the Academy. There are several options. We watch all the talented juniors, starting from the age of 12, we try not to miss anyone. Players are divided into «gold», «silver» and «bronze» level – these are promising young players who win tournaments or show good results, beating strong opponents, or play well at the Kazakhstan Cup 12&U or 14&U.

The Academy is in Astana. There are strong tennis centers in Almaty, Shymkent, Karaganda and Aktobe, which provide free courts, and coaches employed by KTF. We also offer an opportunity for players to stay in their hometowns, train with their own coaches, without a break from their families and school, so that there is no additional stress for them. They do not have to move to Astana. We provide financial assistance and facilitate the training process in their hometowns.

– Is training in the Academy provided for free?

– We have two formats – full funding and partial funding. If player shows consistently high results and fulfills the set goals, then we fully cover all expenses for training and travel. There are also players who are a little bit below the level and sometimes do not meet all of the requirements. We provide them with partial funding to motivate them to progress and meet our level. If players improve their performance and start fulfilling the requirements, we offer them a full funding.

– There is a new tournament in the ATP calendar for the 2024 season – the Almaty Open. Could you please tell us more about holding an ATP250 in Almaty?

– Almaty has long earned the right to host such a major tournament. We realize how powerful the Almaty fan base is as tennis is traditionally more popular there. Therefore, we consciously decided to move ATP 250 from Astana to Almaty to stimulate the development of the tournament, to give an additional impetus to the development of tennis in the city – especially since Almaty is an attractive «tourist site». In general, we decided to use the multiplier effect. Plus, Almaty has good sports facilities – the Almaty Arena – which we plan to adapt as much as possible to the needs of the tournament. There is great potential for growth: we can hold matches for up to seven thousand spectators, and in future, for 10 to 12 thousand. We want to create an atmosphere with full stands, which is liked by the players and encourages them to play their best tennis.

SOURCE: https://www.zakon.kz/vse-o-tennise/6418299-yuriy-polskiy-razvitie-aziatskogo-regiona-budet-sposobstvovat-progressu-kazakhstana.html

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