Alex Bogomolov Jr., the Russian-born, Miami-raised tennis player who arrived in town as an 11-year-old, attended Sunset Senior High School, and currently resides in Boca Raton, has just triumphed yet again. The previous night, he defeated a fierce rival in Serbia’s Viktor Troicki during the Apia International Sydney tennis tournament in Australia. “I lost to him in a three-hour match in Moscow that tied for the longest of the year,” says Bogomolov. “It made this match very tough and emotional, so winning it was a really important way to begin 2012.”
Though poised for success, the path to this moment has not exactly been smooth. “I was always working hard, but it just wasn’t working out before. Things are finally taking the right course,” he says. Last year, Bogomolov was the most improved player of the year on the ATP World Tour after rising from a ranking of 166th to 34th.
Along the way, Bogomolov has had to overcome the glare of the spotlight for other reasons: a very public divorce from professional tennis player-turned-Playboy model Ashley Harkleroad, and a temporary suspension by the International Tennis Federation for using asthma medication that contained the banned performance enhancer salbutamol. On top of it all, a wrist surgery left him wondering if he’d ever play professional tennis again.
“Everything was shitty. I couldn’t even hit a backhand, and it was so discouraging,” says Bogomolov, who took up work as a tennis director at Gotham Tennis Academy in New York in 2009. “I felt like I had so much left in me, and I was praying for a second chance. Then, one night, I came home and my fiancée told me she was pregnant. I felt so happy and at peace with this new idea of being a father, and the next day, I was hitting backhands full-on. The pain didn’t matter. It was something I had to start liking. After that, everything got serious.”
That journey out of the darkness brought Bogomolov back to South Florida. He and his new family purchased a home in Boca Raton last August and couldn’t be more pleased. “It’s amazing to be back,” he says. “My kid can go outside every day! I can also practice year-round. I’ve been hitting with [pro-tennis stars] Andy Murray, Feliciano Lopez, Ryan Sweeting…. Everybody spends their off-seasons in Miami, so it’s great.”
It all makes for a nice comeback story, but for Bogomolov, this is far from a happy ending. “I was tested a lot, and to have a breakout year after all of those rough years is so satisfying,” he says. “I [was] seeded at the Australian Open for the first time this year, and I’m just 28 years old. Now that I’ve tasted a little bit of success, I want a lot more. It’s very addictive.”