Dzalamidze prompted by the Olympics

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LONDON:

Natela Dzalamidze, who moved from representing Russia to playing for Georgia on the eve of Wimbledon, said on Thursday she had always intended to change nationality to fulfill her dream of competing in the Olympics.

The 29-year-old has a Georgian father and a Russian mother. Both still live in Moscow.

She circumvented the ban on Russian players, imposed on the All England Club following the invasion of Ukraine, by her change of allegiance.

However, she insisted that as a holder of two passports, switching loyalties was already in her plans with the 2024 Olympics in Paris looming.

“I thought I’d do it by the end of the year. It wasn’t like I was applying for a new passport. I’ve had a Georgian passport for a long time,” Dzalamidze told AFP.

“But Russian players are banned and I thought to myself why do I have to lose an opportunity to compete here?

“I’m 29 now. How many more years will I be playing tennis?”

Ranked at 45 in doubles by the WTA, Dzalamidze became overnight the new Georgian number one in women’s doubles.

“I made the decision so that I can have opportunities in the future to participate in the Olympics. I have to play matches for the national team.”

Dzalamidze arrived at Wimbledon directly from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, where she often trains.

She admitted her parents were “worried” about the implications of her decision to switch, but said her relationship with other Russian players would not be affected.

“Most of them knew about my plan at the start of the year. It was no surprise,” she explained.

“I play doubles with Russian girls most of the time anyway.”

She added: “I love both Russia and Georgia. In my blood there are two different parts.”

Dzalamidze showed no signs of pressure from switching allegiances on Thursday as she and new Serbian partner Aleksandra Krunic made it through to the second round.

It was her first match since she and her usual Russian partner Kamilla Rakhimova were beaten in the first round of French Open.


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