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TENNIS: Gilbert's syndrome fails to floor Dolgopolov


IT'S hard to play tennis when you have Gilbert's syndrome, a hereditary condition that affects the liver and causes repeated bouts of jaundice.

Alexandr Dolgopolov, the fourth seed in the ongoing ATP Malaysian Open, suffers from the condition which is found in up to five per cent of the world's population, and the Ukrainian has been taking precautionary measures to avoid complications.

"Nobody really knows how it affects a person. It is a relatively new condition which was discovered only about 30-to-40 years ago. Yes, it affects my energy level and I feel weak sometimes," Dolgopolov said in a recent interview.

"I don't remember the last time I was affected by it but despite taking measures, like controlling my diet, it sometimes just happens. Whenever I suffer from it, I need about a week or two to get treatment in the hospital."

The World No 20 also said there were times when he could barely walk but hopes all will be well in Kuala Lumpur.

Despite battling the illness and other injuries, Dolgopolov appears to be finding his game and his unorthodox style of play has won many admirers.

The 24-year-old first picked up a racquet at three, and under the watchful eye of his father, Oleksandr, a former professional, hit with many top pros throughout his childhood when he wasn't playing video games.

"I had a classic technique when I was like 10, 12, but then I changed," he said.

For Dolgopolov, creating his own style was a first step towards breaking free from his father before hiring Jack Reader as his coach in 2009.

"Reader helps me with other stuff, mostly with techniques and also my physical game. He has helped me understand the game better but most importantly, to enjoy it.

"However, my dad helped me develop as a player and of course there was nothing much to change. Reader is here to help me improve and add variety to my game. He also helps me off the court," said the Kiev-born player, who has won two tour titles.

Although Dolgopolov is a household name in Ukraine, his lifestyle has not changed much.

"Not too much has changed because tennis is not popular in my country. Ukrainians can't watch it on television anywhere as people are pretty poor. Probably, only five per cent of the population can watch it via cable channels," he said.

"Some people have got to know me but I can't say that I am like a big star in the Ukraine."

Dolgopolov, who received a first-round bye, starts his campaign against Colombian Alejandro Falla today.

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