DUBAI // Andre Golubev is excited about the future of tennis in Kazakhstan, a country he adopted in 2008 due to the apathy of Russian officials.
Born in the industrial Russian city of Volzhsky to doctors Alexander and Marina, Golubev started playing tennis in the same city at the age of six.
The facilities, however, were not great, especially during the long winters. His parents decided to send the youngster to Germany when he turned 14 and he became a part of the Russian team.
A year later, he moved to Bra in Italy at the invitation of a friend, Igor Eremin, who lived there. Golubev, named ATP's most-improved player in 2010 when he climbed to world No 33, still lives and trains in Italy, but returned his Russian passport for Kazakh citizenship in 2008.
"It was an important decision for me," Golubev, 24, said after his 6-3, 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic's younger brother, Marko, in the first round of the Dubai Championships yesterday.
"The main thing was, when I played for Russia, I felt like nobody cares. It may sound a little strange, but I really like the tennis project in Kazakhstan.
"They are really interesting. Also the president of the [Kazakh] federation calls me often, asking, 'How are you? What do you feel? What you want to do?', asking if I need some help and everything.
"They are really keen on becoming a tennis nation. The Kazakhs in general invest a lot in sport now, so tennis also."
According to Golubev, the Kazakh tennis federation have built tennis schools in every region, with both indoor and outdoor courts.
The best from the youngsters - four boys and four girls - are then picked for a project called Team Kazakhstan, where they study in the mornings and practise tennis in the evenings.
Golubev enjoys visiting these schools and sharing his experience with the youngsters.
"We have classes with the youngsters or practice sessions, where they can see us play and we can teach them different things," Golubev said.