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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Volkov: He May Be a Mercenary but He's a Fighter

Alexander Volkov is known as a mercurial player, sometimes on, sometimes off. On Friday, he was both -- but in the end, the stars were not on his side of the net.


"Now I feel very empty," Volkov said after his five-set, 3 1/2-hour marathon loss to Sweden's Stefan Edberg in the opening match of the Davis Cup final.


By the end of the long evening in which Russia was hosting its first Davis Cup final Volkov probably felt considerably worse, since his favored teammate, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, lost another heartbreaking five-set match to Sweden's No. 2 player, Magnus Larsson. That put Sweden up 2-0 in the five-match tournament and a strong favorite to wrap up the Davis Cup on Saturday by winning the doubles.


Volkov, who has also acquired the dubious reputation of being a tennis mercenary who plays solely for himself and money, showed Friday he had the heart and guts of a street-fighter who won't give up


"You have to give him credit," Edberg said after the match. "He fought his way back and almost won."


Volkov was down two sets to love, before winning the third in a tiebreaker and the fourth at love. In the fifth, he could not convert a match point at 5-4 and went on to lose 8-6.


Russian tennis fans confessed that they were not surprised.


"I know his psychology very well," said Vladimir Perfilov, a former deputy on the All-Russian Tennis Association. "I didn't believe in him."


A 19-year-old fan named Julia agreed.


"It's terrible," she said. "But it was predictable."


That Volkov, 27, a native of Kaliningrad, has not earned the faith of the Russian faithful is in part because of being known for a get-the-goodies-while-you-can attitude.


On Thursday he had joked that the Davis Cup did not mean much because: "We haven't received any money. When we get the money, we'll divide it up. Then ask me what it means."


He hastened to add at a press conference that he was joking, "of course. But in every joke, there's a grain of truth."


Asked during a press conference after last month's Kremlin Cup whether he would be playing for home and country, Volkov tersely stated for the record, "I'm playing for money."


He and Kafelnikov have also let it be known that they are unhappy over the failure so far of an auto company to provide the BMWs they promised to the team if it defeated Germany in September's semi-final round.


The subject came up again Friday at Volkov's press conference at which he said he and his teammates would raise the issue at a future press conference if the Russian company, Binitec, did not provide the cars.


"They are still feeding us promises," Volkov said.


"It's not that we need the cars -- Kafelnikov has a Ferrari and will probably put the BMW in the garage or give it away."


"It's the principle, because we made a promotion for this firm" by wearing its patches on team uniforms.


Volkov, who twice threw his racket in disgust during Friday's match, has a turbulent temperament on the court and a complex one off court, which mirrors the unusual course of his career.


Having broken his right arm during a motorcycle accident as a teenager, Volkov taught himself to play left-handed. An extremely talented late bloomer who was denied the opportunity to play professional tournaments until 1988, at the age of 22, Volkov reached the top of his form during 1992 and 1993, securing a position in the top 20 internationally both years. Reaching the semifinals of the 1993 U.S. Open has been the crowning achievement of his career so far.


But after that tournament, he did not enjoy another major success until winning the Kremlin Cup last month.


Asked two weeks before the Davis Cup finals how he was feeling about his game, Volkov characteristically replied, "There's no way I can know. One week I play well, the next poorly. Every week is different."