Yuriy Polskiy: ‘Energized’ and ‘excited’ about having an ATP 500 in Astana
Source: KTF press-service
Yuriy Polskiy knows days are long in tournament weeks. During the Astana Open, they begin for him at about 6:30 a.m. and end at 2 a.m. But the vice-president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation doesn’t mind.
Indeed he feels «energized» and «excited» about having an ATP 500 in the capital city for the first time that features tennis’ «superheroes.»
Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev all entered in Astana, two years after the city first hosted an ATP 250 and a few months after Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina won Wimbledon.
In Part One of this Q & A, Polskiy discusses this week’s historic event at the National Tennis Center. But he first reflected on the 2020 edition that paved the way. It came during tennis’ restart amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Take me back to 2020. What was it like for Kazakhstan to host an ATP tournament for the first time?Well, to be honest, it was pretty challenging because we got confirmation from the ATP just six weeks before the event. So we had to prepare from scratch. We wanted to make a very good impression and to make players happy, that was our top priority at the time. Everybody worked as a co-ordinated team and we did our best to make it happen. And luckily we did quite a good job at the time and it was the foundation for the success we have nowadays.
-How do you reflect on the journey, from a couple of years ago to this week?
There are a lot of memories coming back from the last years, and nine years ago, eight years ago, when we just started building up the fan base and when we really started to host big events. Now I see that the crowd knows how to behave, that they are tennis people. They know players, they know what the score means.
Also to me, the biggest surprise was to see Novak Djokovic practicing with Marin Cilic on a court where usually kids are practicing. That was something special because I’m used to seeing those guys on big stadiums. Here I know that court pretty well and kids just start playing there with red balls, six, seven year olds, and now these huge superstars practice there. There were 23 Grand Slams, because there was Novak, Cilic and Goran Ivanisevic. Imagine that.
-What else has stood out?
This week I’m around so many top players and everyone is pretty special. In the back of my mind, I thought they were like superheroes and had superpowers. Every one of them has something special. They really stand apart from the rest of the group. You see that they have special abilities, and it’s quite incredible that we have such a strong field, so many really outstanding players. We try to have the players for social activities, to keep those memories.
-So what was it like eight or nine years ago?
Initially crowds were pretty skeptical about tennis. At the time we already had a good base. Our men and women were already playing in the World Group, Davis Cup and Fed Cup, but people didn’t know what tennis means and why it is interesting and what kind of excitement there can be. So we had to educate the crowd.
Steadily they started to love tennis, to understand it, and I’m really happy we had a chance to host a temporary event, first in 2020, then we had again success in 2021. We had a WTA tournament, then we bought a license as well, and this time we have an ATP 500. It’s like the pinnacle of our achievements and we are really happy to have that.
-What does an event like this do for the country? Is it the biggest international sporting event?
It’s not the biggest because we had a lot of international championships, especially in boxing, weightlifting, track and field. But tennis wise, this has never happened and now everyone speaks about tennis. They ask how they can bring their kids, how they can start training. This is a very fruitful time because Elena won Wimbledon, we host this event and all together there is a lot of buzz about tennis. It really helps to continue the development and promote the sport even bigger in the country.
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