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8 Aug, 2022 09:32

Russian tennis chief backs Medvedev in patriotism row

The tennis star was described by a State Duma Deputy as a ‘French player of Russian descent’
Russian tennis chief backs Medvedev in patriotism row

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev has spoken out in support of Daniil Medvedev after State Duma Deputy Roman Teryushkov called the men’s world number one a “French player of Russian descent” in an apparent jibe at Medvedev’s patriotism.

Medvedev, 26, tightened his grip at the top of the updated ATP ratings on Monday after clinching his first title of the season with victory at the Los Cabos Open in Mexico at the weekend.

The win was a welcome boost for Moscow-born Medvedev as he gears up for his title defense at the US Open at the end of August.

State Duma Deputy Teryushkov – who is a member of the Committee for Physical Culture and Sports – was among those to congratulate Medvedev on his success in Mexico, but took the shine off his achievement with a barb about his nationality and the status of tennis in Russia.

“I congratulate Daniil Medvedev on a well-deserved victory. I, like most Russians, did not watch his final match,” wrote Teryushkov on his Telegram channel.

“After the tennis player removed the Russian flag at the request of the West, he became of little interest to me and the population of our country.”

The Duma deputy was referring to Medvedev’s removal of Russian traces from his social media accounts – reportedly a requirement for players under rules which only allow them to compete under neutral status on the ATP and WTA tours.

“Secondly, I don’t really understand what ‘Russian tennis player’ D. Medvedev means, if (he) lives in France and probably has the citizenship of a country officially defined by Moscow as unfriendly, then it would probably be more correct to write ‘French tennis player of Russian origin’,” added the politician.

Medvedev speaks fluent French and has a residence in Monaco, but has not claimed to be anything other than Russian during his career. He was also part of the Russian team which won the prestigious Davis Cup title last year, and represented the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team at the Tokyo 2020 Games. 

Russian tennis chief Tarpischev leapt to Medvedev’s defense when he was asked about the politician’s comments.

“I don’t understand what he’s getting into?” Tarpischev told RIA Novosti.   

“[Teryushkov] is not an athlete, it’s useless even to enter into a dispute with him. Let him learn sports language, although I doubt that he will.

“As for Medvedev, then he trained in Moscow under the guidance of Ekaterina Kryuchkova. Yes, his sister works in Paris, he lived there, and that’s fine. At different times, our tennis players have trained all over Europe: in Germany, Spain, France. Because it simplifies their travel.

“Athletes perform 36 weeks a year, live with a heavy schedule, constantly on the road. Logistically it’s easier, and now it’s even more so. We’ve been in tennis all our lives, and if someone knows how to build a better system, let them say. We are not idiots after all, and I have no doubt that all our athletes are patriots of their country.”

Teryushkov had also seemed to belittle the role of tennis in Russian sport, writing: “Tennis is a wonderful sport. But for Russia, I repeated and I repeat here, it cannot be the leading one, and even more so the main one.

“The number of people involved is 185,000 people with a population of 145 million. This is 0.13% of those involved. Russians are much more fond of checkers and chess...”

Tarpischev disputed those claims, saying that “sport is determined by development and results.”

“Yes, the number of people who play tennis may not be impressive, but you have to understand the specifics. I have already talked about the heavy schedule and constant traveling, this requires a lot of money.

“And there can be no questions at all about the results – Russians have won 36 Grand Slam tournaments, many other competitions.

“All these victories stimulate the entry of young people into section. We produce results, but we are still pecked and shoved. But we are already used to it and we will, as they say, rise above it.”

Medvedev’s win in Mexico was one of a hat-trick of Russian tennis successes at the weekend as women’s stars Daria Kasatkina and Liudmila Samsonova earned WTA titles in San Jose and Washington DC respectively.

That treble came after all three players along with their compatriots were prevented from playing at Wimbledon in June and July because of the UK tennis authorities’ decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players due to the conflict in Ukraine.

State Duma Deputy Teryushkov has been vocal in his beliefs amid the sporting bans imposed on Russian athletes, and previously suggested that any Russians who switch nationalities to circumvent the restrictions should be considered guilty of treason.

The Kremlin responded by saying it would not back such a position.