January 14, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) Russian tennis wants to use the annexed Crimea to help develop players, says the head of the national federation.

Crimea's balmy climate is ideal for tennis, and the sport would raise the profile of the disputed peninsula, which Russia took from Ukraine last year, Shamil Tarpishchev said.

Crimea ''beats all of Europe in terms of climate conditions'' for tennis, allowing players to train year-round, Tarpishchev told Russian agencies.

Fifteen coaches who have fled Donetsk in war-torn eastern Ukraine now ''want to work in Crimea,'' he added.

However, Tarpishchev conceded that many of the courts at Crimea's Soviet-era resorts would need extensive renovation to be playable.

On-court success would shape the region's identity under Russian rule, he suggested, describing tennis as ''the face of Crimea.''

Since last year's annexation, Crimea's sport scene has been turbulent, with some local athletes opting to represent Russia and some staying with Ukraine.

A year ago, the mostly Russian-speaking peninsula boasted two Ukrainian Premier League soccer clubs but has now been left without professional soccer games after European governing body UEFA ruled that Crimean clubs were not allowed to take part in Russian competitions. Instead, UEFA said it would administer Crimean soccer directly as part of a ''special zone,'' the details of which remain unclear. In the meantime, no competitions are taking place.

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