By Josh Weinstock
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
March 18, 2009
He's had four surgeries for various ailments. He's had to deal with the not-so-favorable comparisons to his famous cousin and former WTA cover girl Anna Kournikova. Most of all, he's playing with a heavy heart.
"I lost my [infant] nephew when he was born," said Korolev, who earned a spot into the BMW Championship on Tuesday with a three-set victory over Jose De Armas in the qualifying round.
"It's a very sad story. I've learned to just wake up and enjoy your day as good as you can. And be thankful for what you have. I've had a very tough last few years."
Korolev will have a tough first-round match today against Rainer Schuettler on the stadium court. Schuettler, ranked fifth in the world in 2004 (30th now), was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year.
Sweden's Robin Soderling, ranked 26th, won a final qualifying match to earn one of the four remaining spots in the main draw. He'll play Gilles Muller, the best player in Luxembourg history and also the vanquisher of Andy Roddick in the 2005 U.S. Open. Also playing today is 2002 Australian Open champion Thomas Johansson, who is on his way back from heel surgery.
Korolev, who was as high as No. 63 in 2007 before undergoing hernia surgery, is on a roll since roaring through the qualifier and main draw at the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships. He defeated Belgian Christophe Rochus in the Delray semifinals before losing in the final to American Mardy Fish.
Because his ranking is 87, Korolev still needs to endure qualifying to earn spots in ATP events, including Challengers.
"For the tournament events, you have to enter four or five weeks before. I had a bad ranking at that time, so I have to play qualies everywhere now," said Korolev, who will be in the main draw following the Sony Ericsson Open.
"I'm kind of a little unlucky because you know I played well at Delray and got all the points."
Three first-round matches were completed before rain delayed play Tuesday afternoon. No. 5 seed Simone Bolelli defeated Rochus 6-2, 6-4. Marc Gicquel and Mischa Zverev also won.
Weston resident Wayne Odesnik fell to seventh seed Janko Tipsarevic in a competitive two-set nightcap, 7-6 (8), 7-5.
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