Tennis ace explains decision to drop Russian nationality
Natela Dzalamidze opted to represent Georgia in advance of Wimbledon
Doubles specialist Natela Dzalamidze says that her decision to drop her Russian nationality on the eve of Wimbledon was made due to her desire to compete in the Olympic Games.
The 29-year-old Dzalamidze had represented Russian throughout her career thus far but opted to change her nationality to Georgia, the country of her father’s birth – a decision which circumvented the current ban on players from Russia and Belarus imposed by Wimbledon chiefs in the wake of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
However, Dzalamidze explained that her decision wasn’t solely based on her ambition of competing at Wimbledon and explained that it was a decision she had been mulling over for some time due to her dreams of playing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
“I was thinking of doing it by the end of the year,” Dzalamidze said. “It was not like I was applying for a new passport – I have had a Georgian passport for a long time.
“But Russian players are banned and I thought why do I have to lose an opportunity to compete here?
“I am 29 now. How many more years am I going to play tennis?”
Dzalamidze current WTA doubles ranking of 45 immediately made her Georgia’s top-ranked doubles player and placed her well within contention of representing her new country in the French capital in two years time.
“I made the decision so I could have opportunities in the future to compete at the Olympics,” she added.
“I need to be playing matches for the national team.”
Dzalamidze, who has two WTA doubles titles to her name, added further that she doesn’t expect that her relationship with Russian tennis players will be impacted by her decision – and says that it was a great honor to represent Russian tennis for the majority of her career.
“Most of [my Russian teammates] knew about my plan at the start of the year. It was not a surprise,” she explained.
“I play doubles with Russian girls most of the time anyway. I love both Russia and Georgia. In my blood there are two different parts.
“I am half-Russian. I have represented them half my life. I have loved every minute being on court as a Russian.”
However, Dzalamidze will have to wait another year at least if she is to qualify for the latter stages at Wimbledon as she and her new doubles parter, Serbia’s Aleksandra Krunic, were eliminated in straight sets on Saturday by the British duo of Heather Watson and Harriet Dart.