Ihor Kononenko – What I Love About Tennis – Part I

In Part One of this extensive interview, Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, Ihor Kononenko, founder of the International Tennis Academy talks about how a love of sport and tennis inspired its creation.

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Ihor Kononenko, founder of the International Tennis Academy

Not only tennis, but sports in general have always been an integral part of my life. In my youth, I was engaged in freestyle wrestling and devoted about 15 years to this sport.

Since then I have tried to stay active via playing sport at least once a week. I think it is important that now matter how busy you are or your age or whatever else is happening in your life, to make time for sports.

Otherwise, you are doing your body a disservice. As one ages, one is less mobile and energetic so you have to keep reminding the body of what it is capable of.

For me, sport is a part of life’s philosophy. When my friends tell me that they’re gaining weight. I say: “What’s the problem? Wake up an hour earlier, feet ready and run.” You need to feel sorry for yourself less and drag yourselves from your comfort zone out.”

I have always been and remain a football fan and like all the boys I used to play played football in my childhood. I was fond of tennis, but when problems with my knees and back appeared, as it often happens with athletes, I switched to table tennis, which I continue to play actively now.

Ihor Kononenko maintaining a healthy lifestyle

I got into tennis via my son. My son had played tennis at the youth professional level for a long time. At one time he played in the famous group of Dolgopolov Sr. It was a group of five tennis players of the same age, including Dolgopolov Jr. There was a time when out of five people in this group, four were in the top 10 in Europe, under the age of 16. It was a fairly well-known group in professional circles.

The creation of the International Tennis Academy is also due to the late husband of my sister, Gennady Avdeev, formerly a famous tennis player and five-time champion of the Soviet Union in mixed and doubles. He dreamed of such a project in Kiev. Unfortunately, the man died early, at 42.
To some extent, the tennis academy was created in memory of him.

When we launched this project, we realized that it had the added benefits of being a social project. Allowing friends to get together while also taking advantage of a healthy lifestyle.

In 2010, we started to prepare and in 2011 we began to build. The idea was to create a high-quality professional academy. Given that Kiev is in the center of Europe, we figured that 70% of the players would come from neighboring places such Russia, Kazakhstan, and other CIS countries.

At that time, no one in a nightmare could imagine what would happen in 2014. At the end of 2013, this project was 75-80% ready, but we had to freeze it and only at the end of 2014 decided to complete it. At that time, we had already changed the concept, realizing that the Russian market was closed for us, and we needed to rebuild the concept and work in a completely different way. We did it, and at the end of 2015 we launched the Academy.

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