Only a decade ago, tennis was considered only as a ‘sport for the rich’ in Kazakhstan. There was a terrible lack of proper equipment, almost no good tennis courts, especially in towns and rural areas, and the fees for tennis classes were not affordable for many Kazakhstanis.
However, everything changed radically in 2007, when Bulat Utemuratov was elected as the President of the National Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan. Thanks to his invaluable contribution to the development of tennis in his home country, this sport became more accessible for the general population and much better promoted, which inevitably resulted in the unprecedented upsurge of its popularity.
Bulat Utemuratov and his team of experts in the field of sports had developed an ambitious strategy for the development of tennis in this country, which already brought unexpectedly positive results. This strategy got the support and personal approval from Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Head of the Republic of Kazakhstan, as well as from the International Tennis Federation.
Bulat Utemuratov used his vast business and political connections to attract both private and institutional investors with the purpose of developing the new tennis infrastructure throughout the entire country. Thanks in no small way to Mr. Utemuratov’s involvement, every region of Kazakhstan now has tennis academies with modern courts and equipment. Overall, the number of courts has tripled over the course of the last decade. Currently, there are more than 170 tennis courts that adhere to all international standards. Mr. Utemuratov puts special emphasis on developing child and youth tennis as he is convinced that Kazakhstan has plenty of talented players whose talent should be properly nurtured. As of last year, more than 3 thousand children have enrolled in the tennis academies that were built under the auspices of the National Federation and Mr. Utemuratov himself.
Thanks to their efforts, tennis is no longer perceived as the sport for the rich in Kazakhstan. According to official statistics, the average price of the monthly tennis courses had decreased almost seven-fold. Now, it costs from $15 to $35 per month, depending on the region.
The newly-built tennis academies provide a great chance for young Kazakhstanis to unleash their natural talent and become members of the national tennis team. Dmitry Popko, who graduated from the Team Kazakhstan Academy, is the shining examples of what young people can achieve, as he is currently ranked among the top 200 players in the world.