The last couple of weeks of the off-season have been ripe with news of players deciding to change their nationalities ahead of the 2012 season. First came Bogomolov who changed from USA to his motherland Russia in order to compete in the Davis Cup after a breakthrough 2011. Despite publicly admitting that they had no intention of using Bogomolov in their squad, the USTA essentially threw their toys out of their pram upon hearing the news, eventually issuing Bogomolov an invoice for $75k compensation.
A few weeks later, it was the Russian Tennis Federation’s turn to throw their own tantrum following Ksenia Pervak’s decision to play under the Kazakhstan flag in order to fulfil her dream of competing in the Olympics. For most of 2011, the 21 year-old has spoken openly about the possibility of changing flags ahead of the olympics. Even so, after the decision was finalized Shamil Tarpishev immediately went on a media rampage, stating that Pervak had no right to do so, among other things.
This week it was the turn of little-known Kiwi Sacha Jones to make a move, ditching the practically non-existent Tennis NZ in favour of Australia and all of the funding and help. Steve Johns, CEO of Tennis NZ, reacted slightly differently to the aforementioned federations:
“It was totally out of the blue. We were very surprised, a bit shocked, disappointed - all those emotions. There’s been a reasonable amount of money invested in Sacha’s career, but we quickly realised that she’s a professional athlete and, yes, while we’d like New Zealand to feature in her plans, at the end of the day she’s looking after the best interests of her career. She believes - and rightly so - that she can get better assistance playing under the Australian flag. She’s a Kiwi at heart. If it doesn’t work out for her in Australia then, absolutely, we’d welcome her back with open arms. If it does work out over there and she achieves her goals and goes onto great things then, rest assured, we’ll be claiming her as a Kiwi forever and making it pretty clear that this is where she got her start.”
It’s funny, we all know that - with the omnipresent foursome of Roddick, Fish and the Bryan Bros around - Alex Bogomolov meant absolutely nothing to the USTA until he decided to change his nationality. Similarly, with Russia overflowing with big names above Pervak and young prospects rising below her, there wasn’t much hope for the middle-of-the-road Pervak to ever really be a regular fixture in Fed Cup and Olympic campaigns. Even so, members from both federations have managed to blow things completely out of proportion.
Meanwhile, New Zealand have lost a young and fairly talented player in Jones, leaving them with only one player in the entire top 700. And yet, after their initial disappointment, Tennis NZ were able to maturely accept and respect Jones’ decision, even wishing her luck as an Australian. Hmmm.