The 10 Best Belarus Tennis Players of All-Time

In 2014, the 30 most successful countries in tennis during the open era were ranked, and Belarus came in at number 16. A few of the best Belarus tennis players were mentioned for helping the country make the cut. Unfortunately, in 2022, some of the greatest Belarus tennis players were banned from competing at the All England Club due to the Ukraine invasion, but this is only a temporary ban.

With tennis becoming a beloved sport and more Belarusians taking it up professionally, there will never be a shortage of players to compete internationally. Some of the greatest players have already retired, but their legacies live on as we shall see in this list of the ten best Belarus tennis players of all time.

10. Aliaksandra Sasnovich

Sasnovich would not have reached the heights of success she has attained today if not for her parents’ sacrifice. Her father was a hockey and tennis player for 20 years, while her mother played basketball. They, therefore, encouraged their daughter’s interest in the sport; Sasnovich’s mother had to sell her engagement ring to pay for whatever expenses Sasnovich needed to stay in the court.

Her father, on the other hand, has been her pillar, never leaving her side, ever since Sasnovich decided to play the game at nine years old. At the time, she played for fun, but four years later, Sasnovich decided to play professionally.

The player believes that if she had started earlier as most professionals do, her passion would have withered quickly so there are no regrets. She is a selfless tennis player who is not in the sport for money but for the love of the game and tries not to disappoint those who have been supportive throughout her career. In 2018, she went from being the World No. 87 to No.30. Currently she is ranked No. 31, and the ambitious young player is aiming for the stars.

9. Anastasiya Yakimova

According to Tennis Translations, Yakimova started playing tennis as a little girl in Belarus with the aim of going pro, not to have fun. Her efforts and training were not in vain and the 36-year-old turned pro in 2001. She has won and lost many tournaments against some of the heavyweights in the tennis world. In her opinion, competition enables youth to learn important tools in life. Once you are on the court, only you have to find solutions to the problem you are facing.

Yakimova, however, retired from playing tennis after feeling that her body was no longer up for the competitive sport. Still, the love of the racket was not one to give up easily so she traded playing for coaching. Yakimova wanted to instill the skills of playing tennis in children who wanted to play the game for fun.

So, she co-owns a tennis school in Spain and has become a regular guest coach for players in different countries worldwide. Though retired, she keeps young, ambitious players close to her heart, hoping to mold them into professionals one day.

8. Vladimir Voltchkov

When the Belarusian women’s tennis team was preparing to play Fed Cup in Hungary in 2015, Voltchkov and Tatiana Poutchek were referred to as the most important people in Belarusian tennis. Voltchkov was the head coach for the men’s tennis team.

He also served as the deputy director for the National Olympic Tennis Training Center, while Poutchek was the team head coach. Achieving such a feat had not come easy for Voltchkov who trained another great tennis player, Olga Govortsova. He was once a hitting partner for Maria Sharapova as well as her trainer, sparring with the former World No. 1 at the All England Club.

Voltchkov has reached great heights, starting with becoming the first qualifier in Wimbledon 2000 to reach the last four, a feat previously achieved in 1977 by John McEnroe. The match became like a fairytale ending for Voltchkov who never achieved such success after that day.

The former player turned professional at 17 in 1995 and joined the junior circuit in 1996. He retired from playing tennis without ever having an ATP singles title but at least he bagged a runners-up trophy. His tennis skills had begun at a factory in Minsk where Voltchkov worked. There was a red clay court in that factory where his parents also worked and his father got him interested in the sport.

7. Tatiana Poutchek

The International Tennis Hall of Fame referred to Poutchek as one of the most accomplished players of the Belarus team. She attained a doubles ranking of World No.25 and high singles ranking of World No.55 in her career. Her skills remained unrivaled; hence, Poutchek was chosen as the Captain of the Belarus Fed Cup team.

She was in charge of the team for at least three years during which she helped them win 10 out of the 14 ties, propelling the team into the World Group competition. Although retired, she has been actively engaging in tennis and is currently the captain of the Belarus Billie Jean King Cup team. The tennis player hang up her rackets in 2012 after being on the court for 14 years since going pro in 1998.

6. Ilya Ivashka

Ivashka’s father was a tennis player, and when his son watched him play, the young boy got hooked on the game. However, it took Ivashka a while to settle for a professional tennis career. He was torn between football and tennis, and even after choosing tennis Ivashka still is an avid Arsenal FC fan.

From the age of five, the tennis player kept watching his father play, and his passion for the sport grew until he was ready for junior-level tournaments. He trained in several camps, one of which was where Andy Murray trained. Ivashka also joined Bradenton competitions for more nurturing.

By the time he was 19, Ivashka had been accepted into the Pepperstone ATP tournaments. Since the rankings are a true mark of excellence and help in determining entries and seedings in men’s professional tennis, it was an opportunity Ivashka could not let pass.

Therefore, he had to give up his parents’ dream of him attending college in the United States to pursue the start of his professional career in Kazakhstan. It was a worthy tradeoff seeing how successful he became.

5. Olga Govortsova

Govortsova began playing tennis in Pinsk before moving to Minsk when she was ten. She idolized Lindsay Davenport, a former American tennis player who was ranked No. 1 in both singles and doubles. In 2015, Govortsova told Minsk Herald that unless you are in the Top 100, there is no point in playing tennis.

She explained that being in the Top 100 guarantees you mouthwatering cash rewards to cater to your expenditures. However, a tennis player can still survive even if s/he is not in the top 100 but only with sponsors.

She had many offers to change citizenship but the patriotic tennis player chose to remain a Belarusian. Although she remains active in sports, Govortsova hopes to be a model once she retires.

She has already been regarded as one of the most beautiful tennis players and engaged in a few modeling contracts. She revealed it is difficult to combine modeling and tennis thus she opts to focus on tennis, her first love. Modeling is her retirement plan because she knows it pays well from the modeling jobs she has done so far.

4. Max Mirnyi

Mirnyi’s passion for tennis began with watching a late-night Wimbledon title in 1987. Ivan Lendl played against Pat Cash and 10-year-old Mirnyi could not help but watch in fascination as Lendl hit the ball from behind. Mirnyi recalled that although the game was on a black-and-white television, he envisioned the grass being green. He knew from then on that he wanted to play tennis and began working towards having his dream.

He spent his teenage years at the IMG Academy, Florida shaping his skills under the mentorship of Nick Bollettieri. Jim Courier was also on his way to being the World No. 1 and was training at the same academy. The two young men played against each other and Mirnyi knew that if he could make Courier sweat, then he was doing something right.

Mirnyi won against Roger Federer whom he felt had to beat since Federer is much younger. However, his physicality always made his rivals feel overshadowed in his presence hence Mirnyi was nicknamed “The Beast.” He weighed 200 pounds and stood at 6’5’ tall and Andrew Agassi once said that the nickname was an understatement because Mirnyi hits were the scariest thing he had ever seen, comparing them to a comet. With such a reputation, Mirnyi did not have any regrets about retiring after a 22-year-old career.

3. Natasha Zvereva

In 1989, Zvereva had risen to be the eighth-ranked woman in tennis worldwide. According to Vault, she was making lots of money since turning pro in 1988 but most of her earnings were usually retained by her country. She had to make do with only $800 as her weekly allowance.

The tennis player began being rebellious and started keeping the lion’s share; after all, she was in the sport professionally and the financial reward was hers to keep. The young dreamer even had her eyes set on her dream car – a red Mercedes Benz 500 SL.

Zverevas’s rebellion also led to changing her name from Natalya to Natasha. She even once said that she only played for herself, for fun, and not for anyone else.

The retired player owes her success in the sport to her parents who encouraged her to play from the age of seven. With tennis instructors for parents, it was only a matter of time before the little girl gained outstanding skills. The 51-year-old retired in 2002 after 14 years of playing professional tennis and winning several titles.

2. Aryna Sabalenka

Unlike many girls who dream of being the next Serena Williams, Sabalenka never even knew of a sport like tennis. She discovered her love for the game by accident. She and her father were riding in the car one day when Sabalenka’s dad spotted a tennis court. They went in and the minute Sabalenka picked up the racket, she fell in love with tennis. With time, she was on her way to being a professional player.

At 16, she started training in Minsk at the National Tennis Academy which opened in 2014. Her talent was undeniable and the Belarus Tennis Federation managed to convince Sabalenka and her team to avoid competing in junior tournaments and instead eye low-level professional competitions.

Sabalenka, therefore, had her first ITF title in late 2013. It was the lowest level but by 2014 Sabalenka was competing exceptionally well in Grade 4 tournaments. Her highest level in junior tournaments was the Grade B1 European Junior Championships. The persistent player is now ranked number two in singles and number one in doubles rankings.

1. Victoria Azarenka

According to The Guardian, Azarenka is the highest-profile WTA player council member. She has also won the grand slam championship twice. Azarenka may be a champion but she revealed that if she had a daughter, she would be careful about introducing the little girl to the sport due to the female exploitation she has seen first-hand.

Nevertheless, Azarenka was introduced to tennis when she was seven. At the time, her mother, Alla, worked at a tennis club in Minsk. She wanted to keep her daughter preoccupied thus introduced Azarenka to the sport. Azarenka found the sport interesting and began playing for fun, imagining that she was facing off the then tennis superstars such as Monica Seles.

She would hit the wall repeatedly as she fantasized about the duels. Later on, she revealed that the wall was the perfect partner because it never complained. Azarenka turned her imagination into reality because she still got to play with Monica Seles and Steffi Graf in the same tennis club Alla worked. She left home at a tender age to pursue her talents, and her dreams have come true.

You can also read:

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *