x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Alex Bogomolov happy with his Russian resolution

The 28 year old is relieved that he has sorted out which country he will play tennis for.

Alex Bogomolov Jr triumphed in his first-round match at the Australian Open.
Alex Bogomolov Jr triumphed in his first-round match at the Australian Open.

MELBOURNE // Alex Bogomolov Jr is suddenly a man in demand.

After a mainly mediocre career, the 28 year old put together the best results of his life last season, rising from outside the top 100 to No 33 in the rankings to be voted by his peers as the most improved player in 2011.

But it is not his tennis that is attracting all the attention at the Australian Open.

In November, he announced that he wanted to play for Russia, the country of his birth, instead of the United States, where he had lived and trained since 1992.

The switch was approved by the International Tennis Federation in December and this is the first grand slam he has played under the Russian flag.

The 28 year old is set to make his Davis Cup debut for Russia in a first-round match against Austria next month. He then can apply for acceptance to play at the London Olympics later in the year.

There was just one problem: after supporting Bogomolov through his development, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) wanted compensation. In December, the USTA received a cheque for US$75,000 (Dh275,250).

"They invested their time and their finances in me. I think it was only right for me to pay them back," Bogomolov said yesterday after his straight sets win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver. "It's a big load off my shoulders. Everything is peaceful."

Not content with causing ructions with the USTA, Bogomolov sparked a mini-drama on the eve of the Australian Open when he tweeted: "A players strike here at the Australian Open?? YES SIR!!"

A player stoppage never looked close to materialising. Yet Bogomolov's tweet, which followed a player meeting on Saturday, was a real indication of a concerted push by the players to force changes to the tour.

"As far as the tweet, I was very excited as far as how the players were united. I've never been to a meeting like that before in my life," Bogomolov said. "The way everybody is sticking by each other, the way everybody is on the same page, is inspiring."

Talk of a player strike also cropped up a few months ago, with several top players unhappy about the length of the season. Prize money at grand slam tournaments is also a burning issue, with the players set to meet again in March.

Bogomolov, who sees himself as an elder statesman of the men's tour, is happy to carry on being a spokesman for players' rights.

"I'm at the end of my career. We're trying to make it better for the guys coming up."