WIMBLEDON, England – It’s tough to keep one’s mind focused on tennis when a family’s home in Ukraine is being bombed.
Anhelina Kalinina and Lesia Tsurenko did just that at Wimbledon, winning their opening matches at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament to set up a second-round meeting between the two.
“Thank God they are alive, they are safe,” Kalinina said of her family, explaining that their home was destroyed in a Russian attack during the war. “But they live like many other Ukrainians, (from their) bags, so you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow because everything looks like sometimes quiet. But then yesterday was two rockets in Kyiv, in the center.”
The 29th-seeded Kalinina advanced to the second round by beating Anna Bondar 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Tsurenko defeated British wild-card entry Jodie Burrage 6-2, 6-3.
“I don’t feel good,” said Tsurenko, who is worried because her home in the capital is close to a spot that’s been under attack. “So every time is like my area, my area of the city where I live, get bombed … I think when the war started, I start to feel this tension inside of me, and I think even if I work every day with psychologist and I try to, I don’t know, anyway, try to avoid this emotions, it’s impossible.”
Both players won’t have to face Russian or Belarusian opponents, because athletes from those countries have been banned from competing at Wimbledon this year. As a result of that decision, no ranking points will be awarded to players during the tournament.
“I was not really happy with that decision,” Tsurenko said, though she added that she agreed with the ban. “I think that the sanctions and all the sportsmen getting banned from sport from Russia and Belarus, there is a big reason for that … I think that those decisions are right and the sanctions are right.”
Kalinina said it wasn’t fair to consider the issue of ranking points when talking about a war.
“We can’t compare WTA points, we cannot compare this ban of these players to what’s going on currently in Ukraine,” Kalinina said. “We cannot compare this what they are now missing and how many millions of people are killed, still dying, and how many refugees are brought and surviving, with mothers with their kids, people are out of money, out of family, out of their jobs.
“They don’t have anything. They are like homeless.”
At the French Open, Tsurenko lamented the fact that more of her fellow players weren’t coming out in support of Ukraine. But she and Kalinina have been getting plenty of support from the crowd.
One of these two will reach the third round, and they plan to talk about what they can do in their match to bring some more recognition to their country.
“We’ll see,” Kalinina said. “We will discuss.”