NEW YORK, (Reuters) – Given his genes and his famous name, the urge to jump the net must have been almost irresistible for the young man who just won his first grand slam match at the U.S. Open yesterday.
But Sergei Bubka Jr opted instead for a more modest celebration. He walked to the net, leaned over and shook hands with Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria, whom he had just beaten 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-4.
As the 24-year-old son of one of the world’s greatest-ever athletes, the former Olympic and world champion pole vaulter who bears the same name, Bubka’s first appearance at a grand slam event was never going to go unnoticed.
While most lowly-ranked winners stroll from the court almost unrecognised by the huge crowds that flock to Flushing Meadows, the Ukrainian’s win drew an instant response and he was quickly ushered away to the international media center for the first round of interviews that would fill in his next few hours.
It is something he has been accustomed to since a young age. When he was 15, Bubka played his first grand slam juniors match at the Australian Open, in 2003.
He lost in straight sets but the result hardly mattered and he was immediately invited to the largest press conference room, an expansive theatre in the bowels of Melbourne Park, an unseen venue for most senior players.
“That’s when l realised just how big he was,” Bubka recalled when he fronted reporters on Tuesday.
While Bubka bears a striking physical resemblance with his father, he never planned to try pole vaulting, finding tennis more to his liking.
Although he was born in Ukraine, the junior Bubka was raised in Monte Carlo, where he still lives. One of his friends and neighbours is Novak Djokovic.
Bubka began playing tennis at age seven and within two years he was already good enough to beat his father.
He was too young to see his father win gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but was in Athens in 1997 when he won his sixth and final world championship.
When he was young, he used to watch his father compete but now his dad watches him, although he did not make the trip to New York because he is in South Korea at the world athletics championships.
“He was watching the live scores. He didn’t sleep but he’s very happy that I’m improving and I broke through,” Bubka Jr said.
Bubka has a huge serve but has struggled with injuries after being involved in a car crash last year. He is currently ranked 207th in the world, but advanced to the main draw through qualifying.
“Everybody, every week asks me ‘Are you the son of the famous pole vaulter?’“ he said.
“I just hope that I will continue improving and I will be known for Sergei Bubka the famous tennis player and not the son of a great pole vaulter.
“I like my name but I’m just a regular guy.”