Russia attacks Ukraine: Tennis star returns home to fight

Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky was vacationing together with his household in Dubai when Russian forces invaded his home country.

He made a tricky resolution to depart his spouse and three younger youngsters at their residence in Hungary and return to his homeland to affix the combat. He is now a member of the military reservists serving to defend the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

As a Russian navy convoy closes in on the town and dread hangs within the air, Stakhovsky, 36, says he’s ready to do no matter it takes. He instructed CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Thursday that his purpose is to assist save Ukraine for its residents and his youngsters.

“I used to be born right here, my grandparents are buried right here, and I wish to have a historical past to inform to my children,” he mentioned. “No person right here desires Russia to free them, they’ve freedom and democracy … and Russia desires to convey despair and poverty.”

Stakhovsky had retired from skilled tennis solely weeks earlier on the Australian Open, ending an 18-year profession. Now he is hunkered down together with his fellow civilian troopers in Kyiv — and struggling together with his resolution.


As soon as the 31st-ranked men’s player on the planet, Stakhovsky as soon as beat Roger Federer in a serious upset at Wimbledon in 2013.

In January, he was enjoying his remaining skilled match at the Australian Open. Now his retirement days contain worry and uncertainty, listening to air-raid sirens and explosions in any respect hours.

Stakhovsky mentioned he believes folks like him — untrained in warfare however fiercely patriotic — make up an enormous a part of the fighters defending Ukraine.

However he mentioned leaving his spouse and kids to place himself in hurt’s method was not a straightforward resolution.

“It is unimaginable to make that decision with out hesitation. I’ve a spouse and three children,” he mentioned. “If I’d keep residence, I might really feel guilt that I did not come again (to Ukraine), and now I am right here, I really feel responsible that I left them at residence.”

His spouse is also struggling together with his resolution, he mentioned.

“In fact, she was mad,” he mentioned. “She understood the explanation for me, however for her it was a betrayal. And I completely perceive why she feels that method.”

He mentioned they have not instructed their children, all underneath age 7, who doubtless consider he is at a tennis match.

“My spouse did not inform them and I did not inform them … the place I am going,” he mentioned. “I assume they’re going to determine it out quickly.”


The Ukrainian authorities has requested males between ages 18 and 60 to combat towards the Russian invasion.

Different sports activities stars together with Yuriy Vernydub, a supervisor with FC Sheriff Tiraspol in a Moldovan soccer league, have returned to Ukraine and brought up arms. So have champion boxers Oleksandr Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko.

“If they may need to take my life, or the lives of my shut ones, I should do it,” Usyk instructed CNN from a basement in Kyiv. “However I do not need that. I do not need to shoot, I do not need to kill anyone, but when they are going to be killing me, I’ll haven’t any selection.”

Stakhovsky faces comparable fears and prays he’ll make it out alive and get again to his household. Civilian fighters like himself in Ukraine have acquired “a fundamental class on easy methods to shoot,” he instructed CNN. “I believe folks like me would be the final resort.”

And whereas he hopes he would not need to shoot anybody, he said he’ll if he has to.

“I am unsure there’s one particular person who’s able to inform you now whether or not he is able to sacrifice life. I need to see my children … I need to see my spouse, that is my purpose,” he mentioned. “If a missile comes into the home, is that sacrificing your life? No. It is simply being killed.”

He hopes that when his youngsters discover out the reality about his whereabouts, they’re going to perceive why he selected to combat for his homeland.

“As a result of a rustic which I like … I would love it to nonetheless be on the map, develop, develop into higher, develop into European extra, and finally my children can see the transformation of my nation.”

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