The Tennis Curmudgeon


The Phenom – Part 4: Legal hassles

When we last left you folks, we had the opportunity to meet this Russian player no one ever heard of, Sergei Jerhkinov. He travels mostly in anonymity, attending ATP events here and there, showing up for junior events mostly. We further learned from him that he’s involved in charity work back in Russia, helping to run a private school for disadvantaged Russian kids. He also donates time to public run Russian tennis camps for kids as well. But we also learned that he is a little bit like Bobby Fisher—enigmatic at times, combative, moody, charming, engaging, and sometimes downright bizarre.

We last reported that in some of our initial talks with Jerhkinov, he became livid at the mention of his Soviet Tennis Federation rival, Yuri Stroganov. Wow. I mean, wow! We had no idea that he’d go off with such a fury. At the Pen Pilot tournament, he lashed out at us, “What do you know about Stroganov?!! Why are you talking to me about him?!!” He demanded to know why I had talked to Kostitsin and his wife.

When we mentioned we had contacted his old coaches, Ilya Kostitsin and his wife Iroda, that’s when the legal trouble came. Apparently, there was some court trouble between Jerhkinov and the Kostitsins that we were unaware of. Further complicating matters, Sergei’s father, was involved as well. All of this surfaced and we got dragged into the Russian court system. Apparently there were Russian gag orders that were possibly violated, agreements that were supposedly violated.

All of a sudden, we get summoned by some Russian legal authorities in Moscow to attend hearings. We’re just a small blog, what do we know about international incidents? So we had to put the story on hold until we knew what was going on and what would get us into trouble. There’s no point in going into this stuff, I don’t think we want to re-visit this legal nightmare.

So, what we CAN tell you is a little more background on Sergei’s father and go into a little bit of a character study of who Sergei is. What we found out through interviews with others who knew Jerhkinov at the old Soviet Tennis Federation academy is very similar to what we all hear about pushy parents, stage parents, the ones who argue and yell at little league games and soccer matches for their kids. You know who we are talking about. That was Sergei’s dad.

According to one academy friend of Sergei’s, who wishes to remain anonymous, Sergei confided to her that he hated the other sports and the only thing he wanted to do was to play hockey with his brother. Or even soccer, since his mom was an Olympic female soccer development coach. If he had to play a sport, he wished it was one that had nothing to do with his father’s ambitions for him. In fact, he told her, he’d rather be involved with team sports because if you win or lose, you do it as a team. In an individual sport, he had to bear all the responsibility for losing and face his father.

But again, dear reader, you’re asking us, “Tennis Curmudgeons, why are you going into background on the father? What about Stroganov?!! Answers, dammit, we need answers! Why did Jerkhinov go ballistic at the mention of Yuri Stroganov?”

Yeah, we wanted to know that as well too. More in the next post.

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