Alexandr Dolgopolov is back in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas fold and the 24-year-old from Kiev has made it clear that he hopes to lead Ukraine into the World Group.
Ranked world No. 22, Dolgopolov made a welcome return to the Ukrainian team in February’s Europe/Africa Zone Group I first round tie against Slovak Republic, but he doesn’t just want to make up the numbers, he wants to break new ground for his country.
“I have a week or so to get ready for the next tie,” he explained. “If we win, we can play a play-off to go to the World Group – Ukraine was never there – so it’s going to be fun.”
Dolgopolov first played Davis Cup for Ukraine in 2006, but he spent five years away from the side before making his return this year. His victories in the singles against Andrei Martin and Lukas Lacko were his first wins in the competition and it looks like he is now committed to playing for his country.
Speaking about why he has chosen to come back to the competition now, Dolgopolov said: “At the start of your career everybody has different stuff, some guys have to pay back sponsors and I couldn’t really afford to play.
"I wanted to concentrate on my singles ranking and my own career, but now I think I can afford it and I’m willing to play. We have a good team to go forward and it’s a nice new experience.”
Ukraine certainly has a good chance of earning promotion to the top tier if they can field teams that include the likes of Dolgopolov and Sergiy Stakhovsky. In 2009, they came desperately close to reaching the World Group when falling in a decisive fifth rubber against Belgium but in the end Sergei Bubka was outplayed by Steve Darcis.
With Dolgopolov playing for Ukraine once again, what did he think of his Davis Cup experience in February?
“It was a bit tough to enjoy because I was injured from Australia,” he said. “Four days before the Davis Cup I got the injury back, the same one, and I had to play all the matches with a lot of pain but I couldn’t just pull out because the team needed me.
"It’s different, sometimes you have to sacrifice your own tournaments if you commit to play but it was a nice experience and a lot of fun.”
Ukraine will host Sweden from April 5-7 at the Megaron Tennis Club in Dnipropetrovsk with the winner advancing to September’s World Group play-offs. The draw for the play-offs will take place at the ITF headquarters in London on April 10.