‘One of the best decisions of the last year’: Daria Kasatkina’s relief at coming out

Russian tennis star Daria Kasatkina has opened up about her uncertainty and anxiety over whether she’ll ever be able to return home to see family and friends.

But the top-10 player, who was recently visited by her mother, has spoken of the relief she experienced last year after coming out as gay and speaking out about “taboo” topics in Russia such as LGBTQ+ rights.

“To be honest it helped me,” said the 25-year-old, who revealed her relationship with figure skater Natalia Zabiiako.

Daria Kasatkina has spoken of the relief she felt after coming out.Credit:Getty Images

“I actually felt less pressure over my shoulders [afterwards] because when you have to think about tennis, but also think about some deep things inside your head, it’s just not good.

“I remember after saying all these things I felt just much better.

“I think it was one of the best decisions of the last year and I’m happy with the outcome, happy with how the things were going after that.

“Of course (thanks) to the people who were next to me and supporting me. Everything went quite well.”

Kasatkina went public on Instagram about her relationship with Zabiiako, conducting an interview with a Russian blogger not long after Wimbledon, the grasscourt major where she and other Russian and Belarusian players were banned.

The Roland Garros semi-finalist said, however, she was more concerned about the predicament for players from Ukraine than her own circumstances.

“I have so many friends and people I know from Ukraine,” said Kasatkina.

“And hearing the stories from what they’re telling me, it’s painful because I’m thinking what if I’m in their spots.

“It’s very tough and it’s been almost a year living in these circumstances, and of course I want this [the war started by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] to end as soon as possible, but unfortunately it’s not depending on us.

“They’re my friends and I want to show them love and support as well. It’s tough.

“For them it’s more difficult than me for example.”

In a bold interview conducted with Vitya Kravchenko last July, Kasatkina said: “So many subjects are taboo in Russia.

“This notion of someone wanting to be gay or becoming [gay] is ridiculous. I think there is nothing easier in this world than being straight.

“Seriously, if there is a choice, no one would choose being gay. Why make your life harder, especially in Russia? What’s the point?”

Having arrived in Melbourne and asked about the prospect of returning to Russia, world No.8 Kasatkina said she hadn’t seen her father for two years. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic followed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had made for a turbulent period.

“You never know how the situation is going to turn out. I realise you don’t have to look too far forwards, because you don’t know what’s going to be around the corner, you don’t know what is going to be tomorrow.”

Kasatkina had the blessing of spending time with her mum during her pre-season.

“She was able to come, and we spend a good time. It was nice,” she said.

“It’s difficult that I cannot see the people that I love often. Actually I can see them almost never. I didn’t see my father for two years already.

“But this is what it is, it’s life unfortunately.

“I have to say thanks that it’s not the worst scenario. I’m just happy that they’re healthy and I have them.”

Kasatkina acknowledged the added burden a male tennis player would experience should they choose to come out to the world as gay.

“For sure it’s more difficult because we have stereotypes, that the man has to be a man,” Kasatkina, who is based in Barcelona.

“It’s the choice of a person. Anybody can push someone to come out, or not come out, but it has to be the person to decide, ‘OK, I do it’ and decide how big I can do it.

’But I think the world is changing and people are more supportive right now, so I think it’s going to be easier with the time.”

Kasatkina lost in the final of last week’s Adelaide WTA 500 event to Belinda Bencic. She plays fellow Russian Varvara Gracheva in the Australian Open first round.

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