Stakhovsky shares his experience defending Ukraine in Kyiv
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Daniil Medvedev is facing more calls to be banned from competing amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The world No 1 and all other Russian and Belarusian tennis players are currently competing as neutrals with no mention of their country or flag, but Ukrainian former world No 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov says this “is not changing anything” and wants to see them barred.
There have been multiple calls for Russian and Belarusian tennis players to be banned from competition, with tennis one of the few sports still allowing them to compete but as neutrals stripped of mentions of their country or flag. The likes of Medvedev could even be stopped from competing in Wimbledon this summer unless they denounce Vladimir Putin and his actions, according to Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, who is in talks with the All England Club.
Several Ukrainian players have been unhappy to see their Russian colleagues still competing on tour, and retired former pro Dolgopolov has now agreed after taking up arms to defend his country from Russia’s invasion. Despite enjoying a good relationship with players like Medvedev, the three-time title winner said the current sanctions weren’t having enough of an impact.
“Letting them play just by saying a few words that they are against war, I don’t believe this is enough,” he told BBC Sport. “I know all those guys personally. I even played Daniil when I was playing. They are nice guys but no offence to them – I believe Russia should be blocked from any participant in any sport, in any culture. I think every Russian is responsible for their government and their president.”
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The former world No 13 said he had raised his concerns with an ATP representative already and shared his views on the “no war” messages some players had sent, including Russian world No 7 Andrey Rublev who recently went viral for writing “no war please” on the camera at the Dubai Championships. He continued: “Just being neutral, taking away their flag, we know that is not changing anything. And even the sanctions that are happening now, even the destroyed economics it is not enough for [Russian President Vladimir Putin] to stop.
“I already said this to [the ATP] that I think tennis is being too passive. I think it is not enough to say ‘we are against war’. We hear ‘we’re against war’ everywhere, in Miss Universe, in the Oscars. Yeah, that’s great, but they don’t ask the children or the women here any questions.” Dolgopolov has also recently returned to Kyiv and joined his country’s territorial defence unit, undergoing military training to learn how to use the weapons.
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Speaking of his experience learning to defend his country, he said: “Going to a place like this you would like to understand how a gun works. So it doesn’t mean that I will need it – I don’t know if I do. It means that I can defend myself. And if I appear in some battle I will shoot and I will hit the point.”
The retired Ukrainian pro also shared how close to home some of the attacks have been as he added: “My girlfriend was trying to leave with her child, that was maybe 10 days ago. Their car got shot with some Kalashnikovs or something. They are okay but three cars in front of them were destroyed. They are killing civilians, whole families, she told me that one of her friends’ family got killed with children, with women. So we just feel anger.”
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