Alex Bogomolov Jr.'s career year in 2011 ended on somewhat of a sour note when he was told to repay $75,000 to the United States Tennis Association for changing his nationality from American to Russian.
Bogomolov, ranked 34th in the world, made the change so he could play Davis Cup, which he would not have been afforded an opportunity to do with the U.S. team.
He signed a contract with the USTA in 2009 when he needed a place to stay in Florida in order to practice, and said he was provided about $800 from the governing body to do so.
"It was a lot of money for us to stay afloat" at the time, Bogomolov, who ended 2009 ranked outside the top 300, said in a phone interview.
Bogomolov handed a check to the USTA at the end of December -- and didn't like doing it.
"Nobody (fellow players) thought it was right for me to give back any money," Bogomolov said. "Everyone was behind me. Everyone is cool with me. We just felt it was better to end it. To tell you the truth, it was a big load off my shoulders after we (sent) the check."
The saga put a damper on what should have been a smooth, uplifting offseason for the player. After going through a painful, public divorce, serving a suspension for taking a banned substance and overcoming a career threatening wrist injury, the 28-year-old Bogomolov had a defining 2011 season, rising more than 130 spots in the rankings, enough to win the ATP Tour's Most Improved Player award.
Bogomolov, who has lived in the United States since childhood, is expected to make his Davis Cup debut for Russia against Austria in February. In December U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier, in a video posted on YouTube, said Bogomolov "was not going to be a factor in Davis Cup ... as an American."
Not long after he officially switched nationalities, it was revealed that the USTA was seeking $75,000 from him.
"(The contract) sort of said something in the lines of being responsible for the grants that you received in general," Bogomolov said. The USTA was not clear about how it arrived at the figure owed that was stipulated by the contract.
"We didn't think there would be something hidden in there. We didn't know what we were signing," said Luana Goncalves, Bogomolov partner and mother to their young son.
Convinced he would eventually win, Bogomolov thought about taking the matter to court but decided against it.
Bogomolov acknowledged that the USTA "did help him a lot" early in his career, though he said he wondered why he didn't receive assistance when he was recovering from a wrist injury. And he's more puzzled about the USTA seeking money because Bogomolov claims he was always available to hit with U.S. juniors when asked.
In short, he felt he was on good terms with the USTA.
"After everything I saw from the USTA in the past 18 months, it seems very hypocritical how it behaved," his coach, Yoav Schab, said.
USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said it "sounds reasonable" that the contract in question was signed in 2009 and that it would have stated that Bogomolov would have to give back money if he changed nationalities.
"I haven't seen the specific language," Widmaier said, "but probably if it's not that specific, then that's the gist of it for sure.
"The USTA has provided Alex with quite a bit of support over the years. He's decided that he's now going to be playing for Russia. He's honored his end of his commitment with us, and so we want to wish him well."
Patrick McEnroe, general manager of player development for the USTA, had no comment on the matter when reached by ESPN.com. But in a video posted on YouTube in December, McEnroe said: "I do believe (Bogomolov Jr.) should repay the USTA."
Bogomolov scoffs at suggestions that he could afford to repay the $75,000 now that he will play Davis Cup for Russia and is a top-40 player. His career earnings stand at about $1.3 million.
"All of it was pretty much savings we had for our son, the only money we had put aside for our family," Bogomolov said. "Everything else was tied up in our tennis, even now."
London-based Ravi Ubha covers tennis for ESPN.com.