Am I the only one a little upset that Dmitry Tursunov socked it to the U.S. in Davis Cup when he's basically from California? I am all for "The Land of Opportunity," but it would be nice to see one of these players give back -- like Monica Seles or Martina Navratilova. Yes, I'm talking about Maria Sharapova, too. Good God, neither of them even have an accent.
-- Mike, San Diego
I wrote a piece
in this week's Sports Illustrated
on this very topic. Tursunov is a fascinating case study. The guy is the Russian hero who conquers the U.S. in Davis Cup. He celebrates with his "countrymen" and then he returns to the place he's called home for the last half of his life: suburban Sacramento. Sharapova, Nicole Vaidisova
, Tatiana Golovin
... legion are the players who compete under a different country code but are essentially naturalized Americans.
As I see it, citizenship is intensely personal. If Sharapova or Tursunov or whomever wants to emulate Seles and Navratilova and try to become an "American," great. It would end the chicken littles' lament that American tennis is on life support. If they want only to be residents and sustain their ties to Russian, that's fine too.
I do think that in this age of the-world-is-flat globalization, international competitions have lost a lot of their relevance. The whole of a "foreign athlete" -- whether it's Romanian gymnasts in Houston, the Brazilian soccer star in Madrid, a Chinese basketball star in Houston (or a German in Dallas or a Frenchman in San Antonio) or the bevy of tennis players in Monaco -- has never been murkier.
I would think it would be hard to get too excited about the Russians' triumph when two of the stars haven't lived in the country since they were boys. (Marat Safin
, who left to train in Spain as a junior, now resides in Monte Carlo.) Likewise, why get so worked up about the dearth of Americans in tennis' upper reaches when half the top players are -- officially or not -- based here?