When Bulat Utemuratov joined the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, this organisation was in stagnation. Tennis players did not show impressive results and officials did not know how to improve the current situation. Utemuratov brought o the KTF a modern approach to setting and achieving goals which is used in business. Multi-faceted goal setting had to fundamentally change the sluggish tide of the tennis life in Kazakhstan.
Having headed the Federation in 2007, Bulat Utemuratov voiced long-term plans approved by the International Tennis Federation. The main one was to turn tennis into the mass sport. For this, it was necessary to work in three directions altogether: to develop an infrastructure, to train and support trainers, take part in competitions. They started translating plans into actions without delay.
Tennis courts all over the country
As per 2006, there were 60 courts in four regions of Kazakhstan. Courts did not meet the requirements of international standards and did not satisfy basic needs of sportsmen. Under the leadership of Utemuratov, construction of courts in all oblast centers of the country began. Currently courts amounted to almost 250. Modern tennis centers have been built in each of the 15 regions of Kazakhstan. These are facilities that meet all the requirements of the sports infrastructure; they can host competitions both at the national and world level.
The recently opened tennis centre “Ace” in Almaty has 4 indoor and 6 outdoor courts with a total area of 8100 square metres with a “hard” coating. All courts have lighting that meets the requirements and standards of international TV broadcasting. The centre can host ATP Challenger tournaments in summer. The amount of investments in the project, including construction, equipment and landscaping, exceeded 5 million dollars.
Bulat Utemuratov believes that tennis infrastructure should be easy accessible and available on demand, so the courts are being built within walking distance from densely populated places. So as training sessions fee be moderate – these are now ranging from 18-30 dollars per month for 12 sessions in the regions to 45 dollars in the capital. Number of people willing to engage in sports is growing geometrically: in 2007, just about 500 people were engaged in the lawn tennis, today – more than 6000.
Programmes for children as the basis for popularising sports
In his role of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation head, Bulat Utemuratov pays special attention to children’s sports. The “Tennis under 10” programme is a social project aimed at educating a new generation of athletes capable to defend the honour of the country on the best world tournaments. The main idea of the programme is to start the training process as early as possible. It is for this reason that the programme began to operate in kindergartens in different regions of Kazakhstan. “Tennis under 10” unites 40 schools and 24 preschool institutions. The “Tennis under 10” programme is included in the ITF international programme Junior Tennis Initiative for children under 12 years old engaged in tennis. Bulat Utemuratov fully funded this project and competitions for the next 3 years.
The second large-scale programme for children is the School Tennis Initiative. The project was launched in 2008. It is aimed at increasing the number of tennis players across the country by introducing tennis for children aged 4-6 years in preschools and 6-10 years in schools through mini-tennis. Mini-tennis allows mastering the basics of playing on the court in a fun and entertainment way, using the game approach in training.
Team Kazakhstan Tennis Academy – foundry of champions
Team Kazakhstan project was launched by the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation in 2008. The field of its activity is education of future national team participants in the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. Full funding is provided by the KTF. In September 2008, the first admission Team Kazakhstan students and coaching staff were sent to the Gorin Tennis Academy, USA, to improve their skills. In 2009, Dutch expert Eric van Harpen was invited as the head coach. In the same year, one of the world’s leading experts, Pole Michislav Boguslavsky, joined the project as the head coach on the juniors body-conditioning and general sports training. Since then training camps were held in the Bruguera Tennis Academy (Barcelona, Spain), Pro World Tennis Academy (Miami, USA), Gorin Tennis Academy (California, USA), Tennis Val Tennis Academy (Valencia, Spain).
Young athletes have already demonstrated good results at international and national competitions. Among them, Gozal Ainitdinova, Dostanbek Tashbulatov, Timur Khabibullin.
The students of the Team Kazakhstan Academy won more than 80 international tournaments, including various Grand Prix. In 2017, the Kazakhstan team in the category “under 12 years” became the champion of Central Asia. Kazakhstani tennis player Gozal Aynitdinova is the champion of Asia in the category “up to 14 years”. Representatives of Kazakhstan’s tennis youth regularly take prizes in Europe.
Victories, achievements, results
The Kazakhstan men’s team has repeatedly entered the quarterfinal of the prestigious Davis Cup tournament, beating such eminent teams as the Czech Republic (2011), Austria (2013), Belgium (2014), Italy (2015) and then world champion Argentine in 2017 and returned to the World Group. In February 2018, a team of Kazakhstani tennis players early defeated the Swiss team and reached the quarterfinals of this prestigious tournament. In the Fed Cup, the women’s team of Kazakhstan went into the playoffs twice.
About 40 international ITF, ITF futures, ITF Juniors, ATF and ATP Challenger tournaments take place in Kazakhstan every year. The largest tournament in Kazakhstan is the President’s Cup. This tournament is a part of the ATP Challenger series, and the women’s tournament is in the ITF series. Also, Kazakhstan repeatedly hosted World Group Davis Cup and Fed Cup international tournaments.