No new Kafelnikovs or Safins in sight for Russian tennis
Lack of motivation and funding has brought Russia?s male tennis to its lowest ebb in years, the country?s Davis and Fed Cup captain, Shamil Tarpischev, believes.
ґWith the likes of Mikahil Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko in the twilight of their careers there is no new generation coming through to replace them and, of course, no one nearly close in talent to match former World No.1s like Evgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.
"There aren`t enough specialist tennis centers in Russia at the moment," Shamil Tarpischev told RT. "If these centers are built, things will certainly improve. Our juniors are performing well on the tour, and if they will have access to top facilities in Russia, then I am sure we will have no shortage of top players in the country."
World class figureheads like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal do not grow on trees. Russia has been lucky over the last decade-and-a-half, boasting a steady stream of class, such as Marat Safin and Nikolay Davydenko.
But another member of that golden generation, Evgeny Kafelnikov, says he is not too pessimistic about the future.
"Tennis hasn?t always been on the peaks," he stressed. "The highest was in the late `90s and early 2000s - the Russian players were winning the majors and the Olympic gold medals. But I know that new names will come around. There are a lot of young talents, who, possibly, will be in the spotlight soon."
Five years ago, Russia`s Davis Cup team was one of the best in the world, however, the team has slumped badly in recent times, and faces a constant battle to stay in the top-ranking world group.
For Kafelnikov, who won the trophy in 2002, these are frustrating times.
"We`ve pinpointed this problem in the federation," he explained. "We`re trying to do everything to turn it around. It`s not up to me. I can`t to go to the court myself. I wish I could. But the kids have enthusiasm, which is the most important thing. I`m sure one of this days we`ll have new Grand Slam winners and Olympic champs."
The situation on the women`s side is better, with Maria Sharapova always among the favorites to win Grand Slam titles.
However, on the men`s side, it seems as though things will get worse before they get better, especially, with the likes of Youzhny and Davydenko likely to hang up their rackets in the next couple of years.