Dolgopolov laments Olympic decision
Imagine the disappointment for the likes of Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils, who can't compete in the Olympics after suffering injuries. Nadal, the defending gold-medal winner, dropped out last week citing a lack of conditioning. He called it "one of the saddest days of his career."
And as Roger Federer recently said, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be playing at Wimbledon at the Olympic Games."
Others who are missing out
Alexandr Dolgopolov isn't the only non-inured player skipping the Olympic tennis event at Wimbledon despite meeting the ranking criteria. Here are five other notable absentees:
Mardy Fish: Even before suffering a heart scare and injuring his ankle in Atlanta last week, Fish decided not to compete at the Olympics. He lost the gold-medal match to Chilean Nicolas Massu in five sets in Athens in 2004. "That loss hurt as much or more than any other loss I've ever had in my career," the 13th-ranked American told the AP in April. "So I stayed away in 2008 for Beijing and I'm going to stay away this time."
Marion Bartoli: At loggerheads with France's tennis federation -- Bartoli wants her dad and coach, Walter, to be involved in the Fed Cup and they won't budge. Bartoli hasn't played in the women's team competition in eight years. The 2007 Wimbledon finalist joked she'd be hitting on grass during the Olympics -- in her backyard.
Kevin Anderson: The 6-foot-8 Anderson, who possesses one of the most feared serves in the men's game, didn't meet the eligibility requirements. The 33rd-ranked South African went to university in Illinois and married an American in the same state. He's trying to obtain a green card.
Marcel Granollers: No disputes with the federation for Granollers, just bad luck. Rafael Nadal's injury opened up the door for another Spaniard, and Granollers, based on this week's rankings, would have been the next in line. However, at the cut-off, he was five spots behind Feliciano Lopez, and Lopez is filling the void. The versatile Granollers is still entered in doubles.
Tommy Haas: Ranked 87th after the French Open, about 30 spots below the cut-off, the German has subsequently climbed to No. 35. A sentimental favorite at the age of 34 and winner on grass at home in Halle, Germany's Olympic association didn't put his name forward to the ITF to be considered for a wild card.
But at least Rafa and Monfils were granted the right to compete in the event, which starts Saturday. Their fate was not dictated by anyone else. That, however, wasn't the case for others.
Alexandr Dolgopolov, the 17th-ranked player in the world, won't be making the voyage to London. It was a blow for the Ukrainian, but far from a sudden one. He hasn't competed in Davis Cup in five years and failed to fulfill the eligibility requirements for this Olympics.
The ITF instead handed an Olympic singles wild card to Dolgopolov's countryman, Sergiy Stakhovsky, whose ranking has plummeted to 94th.
"I didn't play Davis Cup, so I couldn't play at the Olympics," Dolgopolov said in a phone interview. "It's pretty bad, but that's how it goes. I take it how it is, and I hope I can play the next one."
Dolgopolov, he of the devilish slice and sneaky fast serve, didn't want to dwell on the reasons he hasn't represented Ukraine recently, only saying, "It's pretty much some conflicts with the federation" and that there were "a lot of issues." Those conflicts and issues led Dolgopolov to consider changing nationalities from Ukraine to Russia.
"We couldn't find a solution to the problems, so we just put it on standby and I couldn't play for the team at this moment," Dolgopolov said. "I really don't want to take that all up officially in the press. It's been a long time since we had a few problems so we couldn't find a way to agree. I hope it will get better in the upcoming years."
So does Ukraine's tennis federation.
But Vsevolod Kevlych, vice president of the federation, wasn't as tight-lipped as Dolgopolov. He said much of the issue revolved around money. Dolgopolov's demands were too steep, Kevlych said in an email, without mentioning figures.
"The Federation [has] no possibility to pay this contract," Kevlych said. "Even for the player of such level.
"We'd like to make a reasonable agreement," he added. "And we really want Alex to play for the national team. Of course, not for free. But on a reasonable [condition], probably better than all other Ukrainian top players have on the team. All of us are ready to hide [our] personal ego. And we are waiting for the same from the player."
With the London Games not possible, Dolgopolov is focusing on his U.S. Open preparations. He'll begin by playing at the Citi Open, formerly the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, in Washington, D.C., which runs simultaneously as the Olympics.
Dolgopolov professed he was pleased with his season despite a mediocre looking 18-15 record and reaching just two quarterfinals since January.
The numbers, however, don't tell the entire story.
Dolgopolov injured himself following the Australian summer, and a health condition called Gilbert's syndrome -- a liver disorder that can lead to fatigue, weakness and abdominal pain -- compromises his ability to train, not to mention perform in matches.
"I still have issues with my health sometimes," he said. "[You lose] a bit of time, which you can't really afford if you want to be high-ranked. So you have that and you have some small injuries, and two or three months of the year you're out of the game pretty much. It's a bit tough that way, but that's how it is. That's one of my problems and I have to deal with it."
Whereas his fellow pros spend hours on court during offseason training, Dolgopolov and his ultra-relaxed Aussie coach, Jack Reader, must tread lighter.
"We do different stuff and try to have the work done around all my unique style of play and health problems," Dolgopolov said. "We take everything together and work under those circumstances."
Dolgopolov laments how the game has slowed, although he insists his ranking can further rise. Not many would argue with the rap-loving, ponytailed Dolgopolov's bright future, given his weapons.
"Players are getting a lot of balls back," he said. "I need to just improve my game and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to stick with it."
But in the immediate future, without his presence at the Olympics, Dolgopolov, his many fans and Ukraine's tennis federation are all missing out.
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