Alex Bogomolov, the next American tennis star? Maybe not quite
Until Monday, Alex Bogomolov, a 28-year-old born in Russia, an American citizen since he was 11, a New Jersey resident soon headed to Florida, had never played in a main-draw Wimbledon match. In his career he was 1-10 overall at one of the sport's four major tournaments -- the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open.
Now Bogomolov, ranked 72nd in the world, is into Wimbledon's third round. So far he has beaten American qualifier Donald Young, and in an upset on a rainy Thursday, Bogomolov knocked out 27th-seeded Juan Ignacio Chela, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.
Afterward, Bogomolov spoke emotionally about the struggles of his life and tennis career.
"I think for some players success comes at a later age," he said. "I always had faith that everything in tennis would be good for me, it was what I was born to do. But once it's here like this, it's surreal."
Bogomolov, who has a fiancee and an 18-month-old son, said there were many times in his career that he did struggle to keep up with the game he loved.
"During surgery, my divorce, the doping incident, those took a tough hit on me, he said."
The surgery was on his wrist in 2008. The doping incident led to a suspension for 45 days after the 2005 Australian Open when he failed a drug test for salbutamol, which was in an inhaler Bogomolov said he took for asthma. He said he did not file the proper paperwork for the inhaler but never denied using it and so did not receive a more serious suspension.
And the divorce was from Ashley Harkleroad, who was a star U.S. junior player as was Bogomolov. Bogomolov, who was once a hitting partner for Anna Kournikova, and Harkleroad were divorced after less than two years of marriage and when the union was finished, Harkleroad was quoted as saying, "I think we were too young to be married and I think he's better off without me."
"The toughest of it all was the divorce," Bogomolov said. "The way the divorce happened, with tennis such a small world, I feel like everybody knew what was going on....
"Everything happened for a reason though. We rushed into it [marriage]. For me, it was more of a prize when we got married. She was popular with all our guys in the States.... I'm competitive in tennis, competitive in my personal life."
Bogomolov said he was "bitter" after the doping incident. "Now they've made it legal for anybody to use the same drug, but I lost a lot of money," he said.
As recently as last year, Bogomolov said, he had maxed out his American Express card. He said he owed $40,000 and then played an exhibition against fellow American Michael Russellin New York. The winner got? Yes, $40,000. Bogomolov said he immediately paid off the bill with the winnings.
"But I did a mistake," he said. "I did it all at once and the next day [American Express] took my limit down."
Bogomolov said it would be almost the biggest dream of his life if he found himself still playing during the second week of Wimbledon. To do that he would have to upset sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, who was a finalist last year, in the third round.
-- Diane Pucin, reporting from Wimbledon, England
Photo: Alex Bogomolov. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images