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Georgia’s Top Female Tennis Player to Represent USA

“I will always be Georgian” claims US citizen Anna Tatishvili

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Citing a lack of financial support from her home country, Tbilisi-born tennis player Anna Tatishvili announced on April 11 that she would be representing USA after obtaining American citizenship.

The 24-year old, currently ranked 102nd in the WTA rankings, described the decision to switch sporting allegiance as “difficult and painful” before explaining that “the current financial situation in my family meant that I could not meet my tennis needs.”

In a lengthy and emotional statement, Tatishvili stated that “tennis is a complex sport which requires good training conditions” and insisted that only in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics had she been given the backing she desired from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs.

“Unfortunately, my country will not help me. Under these conditions, it was impossible to continue a tennis career,” said the Georgian-American.

The Ministry swiftly defended their position, and stated that they had “reached an agreement to fund her career in America”.

“We respect her decision and wish her further success in her career,” read the statement, before concluding in a slightly less civil tone, stating that “Georgian sport has always been based on athletes who never exchange the honor of competing under the Georgian flag for anything else.”

The Ministry also mentioned that “athletes usually change their citizenship in anticipation of a higher salary.”

However, Tatishvili’s move is unlikely to make her rich immediately and she insists that the decision was made purely so she could protect herself against injuries which she had suffered recently due to, she claimed, insufficient training facilities and coaching.

The Georgian is by no means the first foreign player to have been naturalized by the USA. The legendary Martina Navratilova switched from her native Czechoslovakia in 1975, although in that case she sought political asylum. Her Americanization enabled her to turn professional and she would go on to win a record 18 grandlsam singles titles.

Another famous case of American tennis naturalization was that of Monica Seles who, after being stabbed on court in Germany in 1993, stopped representing Yugoslavia in favor of USA upon her return from injury.

Tatishvili’s career to date may not be as glittering as these two fellow foreign-made American tennis players, but she has regularly qualified for grandslam tournaments since 2011.

Her first appearance at a grandslam event came at the French Open in 2011 where she was knocked out in the first round but a few weeks later, at Wimbledon, Tatishvili won her first ever singles match at a grandslam with a three-set victory over Russia’s Anastasia Pivovarova.

Tatishvili has not failed to qualify for a grandslam tournament since with her best performance coming in the 2012 US Open where she reached the last 16, losing out to eventual runner-up Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Her three victories at Flushing Meadows that year steered her to a place in the top 50 of the WTA rankings although she has fallen down the rankings steeply since then, a development which is likely to have been a significant factor in adopting her new nation.

Her last competitive match representing her native Georgia was a qualifying defeat to Japan’s Kimiko Date-Krumm in Miami.

Despite playing under the American flag from now on, Tatishvili insists that her successes will be for her home country, just as much as they are for her naturalized one.

She vowed: “I know that my victory will be the victory of the Georgian spirit. I really love my homeland – I will always be Georgian.”

By Alastair Watt

17.04.2014

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