New Face of Uzbek Women Sport

19 September 2010

Charming representatives of women tennis from all around the Europe, Asia, USA and Australia will gather at the well-known tennis venue in Tashkent city to compete for the 15th Tashkent Open title. Although, the very first three tournaments, which were not yet in WTA Tour, but qualified as Challengers showed great aspiration of the young country in the second half of 90’s to develop sport among girls. But development of tennis with time went along with the progress of a young independent country and in 1999 Tashkent was awarded the rights to host a full-fledged WTA tournament. Alongside, Uzbekistan acquired broad opportunities both to host the brightest tennis stars from all continents and opened the doors to Uzbek players to the world of tennis, whose numbers increased each year thanks to the influence of Tashkent Open.
Tashkent Open has become an integral part of the capital’s sports portrait long time ago and its charming participants are the favorites of Tashkent tennis fans. A year ago, when Tashkent celebrated its 2200 anniversary, the “present” to the capital from WTA was the permission to increase the prize money of Tashkent Open to 225000 US dollars. This made Uzbekistan even more attractive for the world class tennis players to an extent that being in the first hundred of the WTA rankings did not guarantee to be seeded at the tournament. And even being seeded in its turn did not guarantee successful getting past the first round.
As a proof, Ioana Raluca Olaru from Romania faced obstinacy of the Russian Ekaterina Bychkova right away. And in the second round, Bychkova’s countrywoman Alexandra Panova and Belorussian Darya Kustova revealed strong spirit in games against seeded players. The best result amongst such players belongs to Akgul Amanmuradova from Tashkent. Her fans were thrilled to see her reaching the final after tense victories against Russians Kseniya Lykova and Ekaterina Bychkova, fifth seeded Stefani Fogel and finally against one of the main favorites Yaroslava Shvedova from Kazakhstan. And in the final match Akgul fought to the fullest against Israeli Shahar Peer, who came to Tashkent as a winner of the similar tournament in Guangzhou. However, Amanmuradova lost the match just as in the 2005 finals against young Michaela Krajicek from Netherlands. Well, her tennis fans eagerly await her third final now.
But Uzbekistan was represented not only by its leader at the tournament – three sportswomen were granted with access to the main draw and qualification from the republican federation. In this context, Igor Shepelev, the General Secretary of the Uzbekistan Tennis Federation said: “Our strategy is to raise talents. Wild card is one of the facilitators of this process. 16-year old Alexandra Kolisnichenko and 15-year old Sabina Sharipova and Nigina Abduraimova are now one of the most prospective young tennis players in the country. It is very important for them to try themselves in the WTA tournament. And all other related motivations will assist their further growth in sports”.
Well, the girls not only received vital tournament experience by playing with strong players, but also managed to show their talents: Sabina Sharipova, for example, played to the end with German Katrin Voerle – 6/7, 5/7. Nigina Abduraimova in her turn, not only passed the first round by defeating Ukrainian Lesya Tsurenko, but also played all three sets with the fifth seeded Fogel, possibly facilitating Anamnuradova’s victory over her. The last year Tashkent experience was best reflected, when Sabina and Nigina reached the main draw of the Wimbledon Juniors through qualification this summer.
There is a special, very gentle and careful attention to attracting youth, especially girls, to sports. It is vitally important to take into consideration the national mentality in this question, as the President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov many times noted. Every single day confirms that tennis is a fruitful soil for girls’ involvement into sports. For example, it suffice to look at the fifth republican Universiada, which took place in Andijan early this summer to be assured with the high popularity of the game amongst Uzbek girls. Dilyara Saidkhodjaeva from Tashkent was the best at the Universiada-2010.
When Franchesca Schiavone was fighting to win her final game at “Roland Garros” against Australian Samantha Stosur she did not imagine how many people were supporting her in Uzbekistan. They remembered and fell in love with this tennis player, who played well in Tashkent in 2000. And although, Franchesca never came back to Tashkent Open (maybe being upset with her loss in the final to Iroda Tulyaganova), her Uzbek fans are still there. And all the participants of this tournament are cherished by cheerful hospitable Uzbekistan people regardless when and how successful they played. Well, this is the people’s character.