Interview of the day – Sharmil Tarpishev, President of the Russian Tennis Federation

27 September 2009

By Sunder Iyer
On behalf of the Tashkent Open Media Team

The on going Tashkent Open was privileged to have Mr. Sharmil Tarpishev, President of the Russian Tennis federation visiting the tournament and enjoying matches.

Mr. Tarpishev a popular figure in tennis circles, is probably the only President of a Tennis Federation in the world to don the cap of the Captain of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams of his countries.

This also shows his commitment to the sport of Tennis, his personal interest in the development of tennis in Russia and to be part of Tennis action, making him popular with his players and the tennis fraternity.

Having been associated with Tennis for a long time now, Mr. Tarpishev can truly be termed the father of the Russian Tennis Revolution. In spite of his busy schedule in Tashkent he spent time at the media centre answering questions at an well attended media conference

What’s the purpose of your visit to Tashkent ?
For the record Soviet tennis was born in Tashkent in the 70’s . I’ve been a part of the tennis system since that time along with my friend Rustam Rusolovich Inayatov . We’ve since worked together for development of tennis in Uzbekistan. We are also working to see if we can have one system for Russia and Uzbekistan.

Tennis is developing very fast, especially in Europe where it has gone up by 27% since the last year, because the sport is truly a politically beneficial sport and now commands a large audience.

If we along with other former Soviet countries world can plan and develop the sport together we will be able to offer many opportunities to our youth and budding tennis players in our region.

What are your thoughts about development of Uzbekistan tennis, is it matching up to your expectations?

Mr. Tarpishev: I’m really thrilled with development of tennis in Uzbekistan, since the last decade. The nation with support from its sport loving President, the office bearers led by my friend Mr. Inayatov have truly made a name on the world stage.

The Tashkent Open has also played a major role in promoting tennis in the country and has become a big international event in the last ten years. It now has a truly international audience and acceptance.

Tennis is a most popular sport in the country and been run professionally. Results are also been seen with players Like Denis Istomin, Iroda Tulyagonova, Akgul Amanmuradova making it to the top 100 in men’s and the women’s circuit.

Above all Russia and Uzbekistan will try and work as a collective team to develop the game and have many more players in World rankings.

While there are so many Russian players on the circuit , majority of training centres are based elsewhere in Europe and united States , Is there a plan to start an international standard Tennis Academy in Russia ?

Mr. Tarpishev: Last year we have had over 360 children between 14-16 years playing on the junior tennis circuit. We have increased the court facilities, but even this is not enough.

If we plan to set up an international academy we will only concentrate on selected children, but not be in position to prepare our thousands of young tennis players playing all over the country.

So we find it convenient to send our higher ranked and talented playing abroad for training to other countries.

But with along with ITF we have been talking about opening international coaching centres from Moscow to Kazan in about 12 cities , which will have education all the year round. However we have not been able to raise the finances for the plan. We will be happy if the plan works out.

About the Russian tennis revolution it’s successes and Disappointments and Future Road map?

Yes tennis in Russia is surely at the world stage, but instead of the successes I would like to talk about the things that need improvement.

I feel that we should spread the game to other cities, more competitions, should be held, there should be a special system regards tour for juniors, and we still need to develop a complete system to develop the game.

Tennis is most popular sport in Russia overtaking ice hockey, we organized more than 2000 tournaments in over 150 cities all over the country. We are now trying to promote in Siberia and plan to hold international events there.

We have been able to generate a good base of juniors (under 14 ) but we have to sustain the base till players reach18 years there are many droup outs between the age groups of 14-18. However in the last five years we were the best amongst juniors. We plan to continue with this system and make it better.
A lot of Russian players finish their careers early?

I feel that a player should play till 32 years of age and retire; there are many players in Russia but not many opportunities to finance all of them. So players who cannot manage to go through themselves have to stop due to financial constraints. That is why you see so many players from Russia and the same numbers finishing careers early, when they realize where they stand. Some realize it early and stop playing, some take time to realize.

But players who make it in spite of the all the problems faced continue to be on the circuit and be successful, and the other upcoming players want emulate them, thus setting up a competitive cycle

A lot Russian players are in demand worldwide and many of them have changed their nationality to represent other countries?

Personally I feel that changing nationality is not right for players. However some players have dual citizenships and we cannot stop them if they want to represent the other country, they probably do it because they can not be part of the Russian team.
Two of your best players Anna Kournikova and Marat Safin have not been able to achieve the top slot inspite of their immense talent ?

It is a different story for both concerning Kournikova, she has more to life than tennis, and probably she finished her career as her priorities were different.

Marat is a top sportsman for sure, He is at all man and now with age he is slowing down but sure he wants to continue with tennis and be part of Russian tennis in very ay he can help.

You are probably the only president of a Tennis federation to wear different caps and be involved as the Davis Cup and FED Cup Captain ?

Tennis is probably the only democratic and diplomatic sport and that’s why all embassies all over the world have tennis courts tennis is my passion and lifestyle.

I have been captain of Davis cup team since 1974 and the Federation Cup since 1978. I have played 72 matches and won 48 matches of them.

The special personal relationships between me and my players even after so many years has been one of the main reasons why I still continue to be the captain of the Russian team.

It also gives me a first hand knowledge of how the sport is developing in other parts of the world and keeps be abreast with latest developments in the world of tennis.

Whats are you thoughts on the upcoming India – Russia Tie

We have a long relationship with Indian tennis and have already played Davis Cups at Pune and Donetsk before. The draw has pitted us again and it’ll be interesting.

So have you decided on the surface ?

I would have loved to play the tie on Clay courts , but it’ll be an hardcourt season going on with events at Iniana Wells and Miamai , our players will be comfortable on hard

“ but I’ll talk to my players before I take an final call ”

You won at Guangzhou three years after you won your first event in 2006, hasn’t it been a long wait?
Shahar: It is true that I’ve won a WTA tour event after three years; the best think is that means I’m back in action, it was an important win. I’m not thinking why I didn’t win, but my goal is to try and win more events

You’re rankings also dropped from being to top 15 in 2007 to being 55 now?
Shahar : A lot of things affected my ranking , I was playing some very good tennis , and there was the issue in Dubai where I was not given a visa to play , this affected me personally and professionally, unfortunately it happened at the beginning of the year and I lost some momentum.

Again I was probably playing my best tennis and I was diagnosed for stress fracture and had to pull out of many events and lost the clay season entirely. Making a comeback on Grass at Wimbledon is easy. All this has taken a toll on the ranking.

So how much has all this affected you?
Shahar: I’ve put all this behind me , Importantly I’m playing better tennis , I’m in good shape and my aim to break may highest ranking and be in the top 10 soon.

Coming back on the Dubai issue, what are your thoughts and would you like to play there?
Shahar: Surely I would like to play in Dubai next year, I feel Sports should help in breaking political barriers, and Sports should be not used to politise issues.

What are plans for the remaining part of the year?
Shahar: First on my agenda is to win the Tashkent WTA event, I’ve played four years ago in the qualifying , But I want to win the event, then I travel to Beijing, Osaka, Luxembourg on the next leg of the tour