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As Tennis Honors Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, He Reflects on War


TURIN, Italy — When skilled tennis took a number of minutes on Friday night on the ATP Tour Finals to honor a handful of players who had announced their retirement from the game this yr, one in every of them walked onto the court on the Pala Alpitour stadium wearing military fatigues.

That was Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, whose retirement has unfolded in a different way from all of the others.

Stakhovsky’s tennis profession, which included eight ATP singles and doubles titles and an appearance on the 2012 Olympics, got here to an abrupt end in February when he became a soldier. Stakhovsky, 36, knew nothing about shooting guns, throwing grenades or firing stingers on the time. Now, having spent much of the past months near the front lines in eastern Ukraine, he knows plenty.

“Everybody out there’s drained,” he said on Friday night after the ceremony, in reference to Ukraine’s forces, who know that at the same time as they make gains, Russia continues to kill civilians and hit infrastructure targets. “A number of Ukrainian soldiers are dying, and I suppose that’s the one things that we take into consideration while we’re doing it.”

In recent months, he has patrolled and helped clear Ukraine’s recaptured cities. His next rotation within the eastern Donetsk region begins on Dec. 18.

It’s an existence that has little in common with the rarefied life he led before, traveling the world to play tennis and operating his winery, in Zakarpattia, near Ukraine’s western border, where he cultivated merlot, chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and other grape varieties.

That earlier existence rarely enters his mind, Stakhovsky said, though he stays involved with skilled players like Elina Svitolina who send support and seek news from the battlefield. Most have left the country to pursue their careers and remain secure while sending financial and other types of support back home.

“I feel it’s harder whenever you’re out,” he said of those that had left, as they hunt for scraps of knowledge, worry about family and friends, and struggle to regulate to war as a lifestyle. “Unfortunately, our body, the human being, we will adapt to do every little thing. So that you adapt to shelling. You adapt to fear.”

As he spoke, Andrey Rublev of Russia took the court to play Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Deniil Medvedev of Russia had played Novak Djokovic of Serbia that afternoon.

Stakhovsky and other players from Ukraine have said that Russian and Belarusian players ought to be barred from competition through the war. For probably the most part, skilled tennis has not taken that step, as a substitute banning those countries from team competition and removing any symbols of their countries, resembling their flags.

Sports leaders say it’s unfair to carry Russian and Belarusian athletes accountable for the actions of their governments, and while Stakhovsky acknowledges that viewpoint, he finds the silence from most Russian players shameful. Rublev has been the one male player to publicly plea for peace and support criticism of the war.

“Predominantly, all of the Russian athletes or Russian tennis players are silent, and so they are neutral and so they say that, , ‘it’s politics for me,’” Stakhovsky said. “It’s not politics. It’s a war.”

History, he said, and perhaps even their children, will judge them.

“At the top of the day, when the war can be over and the questions can be asked by their kids or anybody, ‘What have you ever done for it to not occur? What you will have done for it to stop?’ they may not give you the option to reply that query, because they’ve done nothing,” Stakhovsky said. “They’ve been silent, and so they have done nothing.”

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