Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky on Saturday said he was “disappointed” by Russian tennis players who out of fear of retribution have not spoken out against their country’s invasion of his homeland.
“They are all scared for their fate. They don’t want to go to jail… but they are okay that the kids and women are dying,” the retired player told reporters in the Polish city of Krakow.
“I would rather trade and go to jail for a couple of weeks or even a month if I can save a life by doing that,” he added.
The 36-year-old was in Poland to play at a charity tennis event organised by world number one Iga Swiatek whose proceeds will go to youths affected by the war in Ukraine.
Other special guests in attendance included former world number two Agnieszka Radwanska, Ukraine’s top female player Elina Svitolina and Ukrainian Champions League-winning football legend Andriy Shevchenko.
Before playing in a couple of exhibition matches at the Krakow event, Swiatek told reporters she felt the Ukraine war had lately been forgotten around the world.
“In a sense, memory of it has faded and also many players have removed the (Ukraine) ribbons that they wore at the beginning of February for, say, a couple of matches,” the Polish star said.
“I find that a bit inconsistent but above all I’m focusing on what I can do to help,” the 21-year-old added.
“I also know that many players don’t entirely want to speak out… We can each decide whether to share our thoughts or keep them to ourselves and I respect that.”
‘Walked away’ –
Stakhovsky, who retired from tennis earlier this year and joined Ukraine’s reserve forces after the invasion, said in his experience Russian players had maintained their silence even in person.
“I met some of the Russian players in Paris—I’m not going to name names—during Roland Garros, and basically all of them just turned around and walked away or just turned their heads away when they saw me,” he said.
“And I know all of them for a very long time. I saw their careers grow. And I’m disappointed to say the least.”
Stakhovsky singled out Russian players Andrey Rublev and Daria Kasatkina as the sole exceptions, praising them for stating their feelings about the conflict.
“Rublev was maybe the only player who came out publicly and said stop to the war in the first week,” Stakhovsky said.
He was referring to the Dubai ATP event where Rublev signed the camera lens on court with the message “No war, please”.
Meanwhile Kasatkina, Russia’s highest ranked female player, called the war a “nightmare” in a recent YouTube interview and also criticised Russia’s attitude towards homosexuality after revealing she was gay.
“I have great admiration for Daria… She is a hero in her own way,” Stakhovsky said.
“If there would be more Russians like this, this war would have never started.”