It is the first known match of Russian tennis. We know the names of the players, a certain Vronski opposed to a first-name Anna called to a great literary destiny. The name of the man he related is known worldwide, it is Leo Tolstoy who reports on these tennis and love exchanges in the sixth chapter ofAnna karenina, serialized from 1875.
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“Tennis has always been prized by good Russian society, whether it is that of the tsars or the communists”, explains Jean Couvercelle, founder of Tennis Magazine and one of the best historians of the sport. “In the days of the Communists, it was the players from Georgia who shone, because they benefited from good weather and clay courts in their southern Republic”, he continues.
The rise of Russian tennis after the fall of the wall
The most famous of these Georgian Soviets is Alexander Metreveli, a Wimbledon finalist in 1973 after having benefited from one of the rare exit visas granted to Soviet players of the time. But the real take off was due to the American enemy, who hosted tennis at the Los Angeles Games in 1984 as a guest sport. And to a powerful man with a passion for racquets, Boris Yeltsin, a great friend of a certain Shamil Tarpischev, historic Davis Cup and Fed Cup captain.
The fall of the Berlin Wall opened horizons of freedom and income for players, who no longer had to pay their winnings to the authorities. “That’s when middle-class parents started betting on tennis for their children,” says Jean Couvercelle. Born in 1974 under the mild skies of Sochi, Yevgueni Kafelnikov won two Grand Slam tournaments, including Roland-Garros in 1996, and brought home a gold medal from the Sydney Games.
Pure Muscovite, Marat Safin is six years younger. He also won two Grand Slams, before becoming, at the time, the youngest world number 1 in history. Succeeding with his sister Dinara Safina, also a world first time, the first family double at the top.
The two Russians who qualified for the London Masters this year have yet to win any of the four majors, which puts them, according to Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a notch below the pair he formed with Marat Safin. “Marat wanted to fight me, I think this emulation is healthy, the same is happening between Medvevev, Rublev, Khachanov (number 20 at ATP). With these three boys, Russian tennis is really in great shape ”, he said recently on the specialized site WeLovetennis.fr.
In the race for their first Grand Slam
he There is therefore a level to be crossed for the Russian Cup to be full. This famous Grand Slam title, monopolized by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic and behind which runs the whole young generation. After Dominic Thiem broke the Indian sign in the last US Open, Daniil Medvedev (world number 4) and Andrey Rublev (number 8) pawed their feet. Yevgueni Kafelnikov is betting more on the second, “More complete tennis”.
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Unless it is the German Alexander Zverev or the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas who takes down the timpani of their first Grand Slam. Under the fun of their childhood country but also the Russian vivas of their origins: Alexander Zverev was born in Hamburg to Russian parents who emigrated to Germany. As for Stefanos Tsitsipas, he is the result of the union of a Greek tennis teacher and a former Russian professional player.