Russian players who don’t take a stance ‘shouldn’t play,’ says Stakhovsky

Former Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who went through Paris expressly for Roland-Garros, returned to his devotion to his country since the beginning of the conflict with Russia and spoke about tennis news.

Sergiy, al, how are you?

I am alive, so are my family members, everyone is safe, personally I am fine.

For what occasion did you meet Elina Svitolina and Andriy Shevchenko in Paris?

Elina Svitolina raised money with her foundation to help thirty young Ukrainian tennis players and their families. By raising money we try to facilitate their training. And the more the foundation raises money, the more we can help them. We met around a dinner where all three talked about our country, our project for young players.

Andriy Shevchenko became ambassador of “United 24”, a campaign that President Volodymyr Zelensky started to raise funds in various sectors, humanitarian, military… Elina also became an ambassador. So we’re trying to see what we can do to help. And especially for tennis. With Elina as an active player, even though she is pregnant, and me as a retiree, we want to help young players as much as possible so that they can survive in these complicated times.

How does it feel to see tennis again?

It’s really great. I watched the end of Alexander Zverev’s match against Lenglen. The audience cheered, sang. This is the first time I’ve seen a full court since the Covid. And it feels good to see sport again, which, moreover, is without health restrictions.

You have been in Ukraine for almost three months. How do you live the fact that you are leaving your country?

It’s a different reality, but it’s good to see people living normal lives. There are no alarms, no weapons, no gunfights. It feels good.

Was it important to you to come here, in “reality”, as you say?

Yes of course. We need to know what price Ukraine is fighting for, what it is defending for. And hope that our country will lead a normal life again.

Are you going back to Ukraine soon?

I’m going to Budapest for a week with my family first. Then I go back to Ukraine. I’m on the reservations, so I’m a civilian. I can travel outside my country as I have three children. This is one of the advantages I have compared to other Ukrainians.

What does your family think of this decision?

My wife found the strength to accept my choice to join the military. I don’t know how I found the strength to commit to it, but I did and I understood that I had no other choice. I have to do it for my parents, for me, for my children. I believe in our army, which is quite strong, and for now they don’t need me in their ranks. But if they ask me, I’ll go forward.

What state is your country, the different cities?

It is devastated, destroyed. There are many deaths every day. Bombed buildings. It’s a scary world. What we experience has disappeared from television, but it is still the reality. It’s bombing more and more to the west, so close to the European zone. The conflict is still going on in our country and is still just as important.

Returning to tennis, the ATP decided not to award players points at Wimbledon, in response to tournament organizers banning Russian players. What do you think of this choice?

I am disappointed with this decision. Russia must be isolated. It is a democratic country, they can elect a new government. I believe that athletes and other people should not travel outside their country, it’s that simple. They want to live normally in Europe, in France or in the United States, but today the athletes are not taking responsibility for what their own government they have elected is doing.

It’s not correct. They don’t want to take a position on whether it’s good or not. Not a single Russian player has spoken out against the invasion. For me, if you don’t choose white or black, you shouldn’t participate in tournaments like Roland-Garros or Wimbledon.

Have you talked to Russian players?

I spoke to Andrey Rublev and I will say he is the only one I feel sorry for because from day one he tries to say no to war and all. But unfortunately “no to war” means nothing now. Because if the Ukrainians stop fighting, we wouldn’t exist anymore.

The other players are still active, I haven’t had any contact with them. They never had the urge to message. I will not confront them. It’s their decision. If they’d rather say “I don’t know what’s going on in Ukraine” while their army is killing men, women, children… it’s because something isn’t right.

Interview by Léna Marjak