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Alex Bogomolov Jr. is making the most of his belated arrival in the limelight. After a mostly mediocre career, the 28-year-old put together the best results of his life last season, rising from outside the top 100 to No. 33 in the rankings to be voted by his peers as the most improved player in 2011. But it isnt just his tennis thats attracting attention at the Australian Open.

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In November, he announced that he wanted to play for Russia, the country of his birth, instead of the United States, where he had lived and trained since 1992. The switch was approved by the International Tennis Federation in December and this is the first Grand Slam he has played under the Russian flag. Bogomolov is set to make his Davis Cup debut for Russia in a first-round match against Austria next month. He then can apply for acceptance to play at the Olympics later in the year. Just one problem: after supporting Bogomolov through his development, the United States Tennis Association wanted compensation. In December, the USTA received a check for $75,000. "They invested their time and their finances in me.

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I think it was only right for me to pay them back," Bogomolov said Tuesday after his straight-set win over Daniel Gimeno-Traver. "Its a big load off my shoulders. Everything is peaceful. Everything is good." That wasnt the case on the eve of the Australian Open when Bogomolov sparked a mini-drama by tweeting: "A players strike here at the Australian Open?? YES SIR!!" A player stoppage at the first Grand Slam of the year never looked close to happening. Yet Bogomolovs tweet, which followed a player meeting on Saturday, was a real indication of a concerted push by the players to force changes to the tour. "As far as the tweet, I was very excited as far as how the players were united. Ive never been to a meeting like that before in my life," Bogomolov said.

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"I know all these guys for 12 years already. The way everybody is sticking by each other, the way everybody is on the same page, is inspiring." Talk of a player strike also cropped up a few months ago, with several top players unhappy about the length of the season. Prize money at Grand Slam tournaments is another top issue, with the players set to meet again in March to decide on a course of action if there has been no progress. Bogomolov, who sees himself as an elder statesman of the mens tour, is happy to carry on being a spokesman for players rights. "Im 28 years old, Im trying to sort of improve the game for the younger generation thats coming up, for the fans, for the tournaments," he said. "Im at the end of my career.
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Were trying to make it better for the guys coming up." He may be close to the end of his career, but Bogomolov is only just reaching his peak after coming through a couple of rocky periods early on. In 2005, he sat out a 1 1/2 month ban for ingesting a banned substance contained in an asthma treatment. The following year, his two-year marriage to former WTA professional Ashley Harkleroad ended in divorce. Back in Melbourne where he failed the anti-doping test seven years ago, Bogomolov is seeded for the first time at a Grand Slam and through to the second round. "At 28 years old, its kind of surreal," Bogomolov said.
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"But its very exciting." HARRISON, N.J. -- New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke was so miffed after a 2-2 tie with the Columbus Crew that he invited Major League Soccer to fine him as much it wants. While ripping his team for a poor performance despite getting an injury time goal from defender Jamison Olave to extend the Red Bulls unbeaten streak to seven games -- their best in 10 years -- Petke savaged referee Geoff Gamble for awarding a 74th minute penalty kick that allowed the Crew to take a 2-1 lead Sunday. Andrew Luck Black Jersey "Thats a guy in my estimation who is getting ready for the Memorial Day weekend and wanted to be a part of the show," Petke said. "Thats what it is to me and I dont care what the league fines me. Those decisions and those types of things cost jobs." Andrew Luck Colts Jersey The play that infuriated Petke came after the Crews Eddie Gaven centred a pass that Justin Meram. The forward took the pass in stride in the box and then seemed to flub his shot. As the ball popped into the air, Kosuke Kimura knocked him down and Gamble pointed to the penalty spot. "Im not blaming the refs for us not winning," Petke said. "I dont think we did enough to win. Were going to have games like that, but to give them that PK is shocking." Gamble told a pool reporter he had a clear view of the play.