"Tursunov remains patient" - Houston Chronicle article
Tursunov remains patient
Russian-born immigrant still waiting to become U.S. citizen
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
The Russian who wants to be an American defeated the Russian-American 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 during the second round at the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships on Thursday afternoon.
What's in a hyphen? A lot if you're Dmitry Tursunov.
Tursunov beat Alex Bogomolov Jr., who was born in Moscow 21 years ago next week. Tursunov was born in Moscow 22 years ago in December. But "Bogie," whose father, Alex Sr., was once the Soviet Union's national coach, has his U.S. citizenship, while Tursunov's quest for same drags on.
In fact, it has been in the works since Tursunov was 13 years old, a year after he left his family behind and emigrated to work with an expatriate Russian tennis coach in the San Francisco Bay area. There were problems with his first lawyer, and then 9/11 happened, greatly slowing the process. But all the paperwork is completed, and Tursunov waits patiently.
"I have no choice except to be patient," says Tursunov, a U.S. resident for so long he doesn't have any perceptible accent. "I've learned I can't change anything by worrying. I already spent too much time worrying."
And there's no reason to fret, he has concluded. After all, this isn't about rejecting Russia as a country or a culture, only about embracing the country and the culture in which he has grown up. Given his druthers, he'd prefer there were no passports and no faceless bureaucracies to dispense them.
"You should be judged by what kind of person you are and what you can do," he said. "Not by a piece of paper that you carry."
However, there are those back in the "old country" who are deeply offended by Tursunov's efforts to swap out his citizenship. It has been written that he is "persona non grata" in Russia, where he hasn't visited in eight years. Asked about that, he shrugs and says he doesn't know how Russian people feel about him because there is virtually no personal contact. The "broken phone" syndrome, he calls it, smiling.
"The Russian Tennis Federation never reached out to me after I left," he said. "I don't say that with any bitterness but just to state a fact. Perhaps for them, it was an opportunity missed. I don't know. It doesn't matter anymore. I have my life and my tennis in the United States."
Once, that seemed a huge loss for Russia. Two months after he turned 18, Tursunov won the first three matches of his ATP career in Memphis, Tenn., after winning 15 in a row on the Futures and Challengers circuits. But after Mark Philippoussis beat him in the quarters, his back started aching. He didn't play another ATP match for two years.
The injury defied accurate diagnosis for the longest time, but it was finally determined that he had two tiny fractures in his L-2 vertebrae. Only rest could help. By late last summer, he was ready to reintroduce himself as a threat to accomplish grand things, and he proceeded to make the third round at the U.S. Open, taking out three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten in the process.
At the end of the year, Tursunov had nudged inside the top 100, showing enough promise that Jose Higueras agreed to be his coach. Although 2004 has been a mixed bag of frustration and small triumphs, resulting in two more match defeats than victories, Tursunov's reaching the quarters at Westside has again buoyed his spirits. He is introspective enough to realize how badly he needs to maintain his off-court equanimity when he's whacking tennis balls.
He was able to do that in the third set against his once-and-former and, hopefully, would-be-again countryman Bogomolov after lapsing badly in the second.
"My coach gets angry with me when I get angry and don't stop to think why things happen," Tursunov admitted. "So the first and third sets were good for me. I felt under control. I didn't try to rush."
Under Higueras' tutelage, he appears to be making progress.
"Slowly," Tursunov said.
His next hurdle today is Tommy Haas, who tends to feel more American than German -- although he only jokes about changing Davis Cup teams -- and also is trying to jump-start an injury-sidetracked career. The Haas-Tursunov winner plays either fourth seed James Blake or fifth seed Andrei Pavel.
Haas, who said his surgically repaired shoulder continues to behave itself, had just a pinch of early trouble in sailing past Paul Goldstein 6-4, 6-2. Blake defeated Davide Sanguinetti 7-5, 6-3, while Pavel struggled to escape Jose Acacuso's clutches, rallying for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.