The Ukrainian women’s tennis team plays a match against the US team for the Billy Jin King Cup qualifier in Ashgill, North Carolina. At the same time, bombs are being dropped on their hometowns as war breaks out in Ukraine.
“I feel like we have two different realities right now. Tennis court, amazing atmosphere, amazing arena here. “And then on the other side, people die every day,” Katarina Zavatska told CNN Sport.
Despite a brave 2-0 recovery, the astonishing response ultimately failed when the US team defeated Ukraine 3-2 in a decisive match on Saturday.
Yastremska, 93rd in the world, defeated Jessica Pegula, 14th in the world, before Zavatska lost more than Shelby Rodgers, finishing 155th, leveling Ukraine 2-2.
However, the 7-6 (5) 6-3 victory over Pegula և Asia Mohammed over Kichenok և Yastremska marked the US progress until the final in November.
Less than three months later, “Kichenok” and “Yastremska” were far from the tennis court, fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On February 25, Kichenok left Ukraine with his parents. He drove exactly 31 hours from Ki Chisina, Moldova, 500 miles.
“Frankly, I have never felt such fear in my life. My body was shaking for two hours. I could not speak. For example, it was really shocking. And yes, I could not eat anything for a few days. ” Kichenok told CNN. “Those days were the most difficult in my life, I can say for sure.”
Lyudmila’s sister, Nadia, had left Ukraine early to prepare for the Indian Wells Open.
“I knew my sister was in Ki, my mother was in Ki, and my father was in Ki. “It was just two days before they arrived in Moldova,” Nadia told CNN Sport. “I mean, I have never felt anything like that. This fear is simply difficult to express. It was dividing me. I was constantly having panic attacks. ”
Yastremska and her younger sister crossed the Danube River from Izmail to Romania on the same day that the Kichenoks left Ki. But unlike Lyudmila, the Yastremska sisters had to leave their parents.
“I will remember for the rest of my life when I left, especially when we crossed the border,” Yastremska told CNN. “You see your parents on the other side of the river, you just did not fully understand how it happened, how these things could happen in 2022.”
Play tennis լինել be at war
At first, it was difficult for Lyudmila to play tennis. When he arrived in Indian Wells, California, he was struggling to reconcile the peace he had seen in court with the war against his home.
“On my first day on the spot, that tennis center was shocking. I was shocked at how people could still laugh. “They were laughing, they were just living a normal life,” said Lyudmila. “I did not understand how it was possible, because my mind was still there.”
Yastremska also found it difficult to concentrate on the tennis court. It has become easier to play over time, but most of his thoughts are still with Ukraine.
“Well, I’m not even going to lie to myself. It is very difficult. I try to pretend that I am strong enough, I can play, etc., but that is not true. It is very difficult, “he explained.
Savchuk describes it as a “parallel life”. When he looks around, he sees that people are living a normal life, but his heart remains in Ukraine, where war is raging.
Nadia, however, found some comfort in court. Playing tennis forces him to put down his phone for a few hours, to distract himself from the constant news of the war in Ukraine.
Like Nadia, Zavatska also got some comfort from tennis. He is grateful for the opportunity to play tennis, given the difficult situation in his home country.
“Tennis is the only place for me where I feel alive, where I feel I can live, I do not think about the news. I do not think about bad things. “I only think about the ball. I’m in court because I’re just doing my job,” Zavatska said.
“It is a great opportunity to do that, to be able to have everything, what I have now, every second, to be able to play tennis. It’s just amazing. Do you know what the opportunity will be in the end? tennis player. “
Find support in court
Footballers do everything on the court, beyond, to support their families and friends in Ukraine. Zavatska uses the money she earns playing tennis to support her family, as no one else has a job at the moment.
“It’s a lot. “You have to pay the bills, you have to think about others, you have to help others,” he explained. “It’s not pressure, but it’s something I feel I can do, what I do every day.”
Yastremska donated the entire prize for her participation in the Lyon Open to her efforts to help Ukraine and used her own charitable foundation for humanitarian aid. While Jastremska wants to go home to see her parents, she knows she can be more helpful using her platform as a tennis player.
“I know that since I’m a professional tennis player, I have more opportunities to talk about it. “I have more opportunities to help,” he said.
But the Ukrainian players, of course, are not alone in their efforts. On Thursday, the US team showed its support to the opponent with a dinner before its first matches. During the dinner, the US team presented a blanket to each member of the Ukrainian detachment, decorated with the message “US, Ukrainian flags.” “We stand with you.”
One month before the game on March 18, USTA announced that 10% of the ticket price for the event would be donated to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by Global Giving, so that local sponsors of the event would also donate.
On April 7, the USTA also announced that Billy Jean King will participate in the game with his partner Ilana Kloss. King and Klose also donated $ 50,000 to the Crisis Aid Fund of Ukraine.
Find strength in Ukraine
When the war broke out, Nadia and Zavatska were amazed, amazed at the strength and unity they saw in their country, among their people.
“People in Ukraine, they are so strong now. That is, they are surprisingly strong. “I did not know that force existed,” Zavatska said.
The whole Ukrainian team is getting stronger from the power they see in their homeland, it is the only thing they want the world to know about the nation. its power.
“I thought I was always scared, but compared to those people [back in Ukraine], have no fear. They go for everything. “They are ready for anything,” Yastremska said.
“I am very proud of everyone there, I am proud to be Ukrainian, proud of Ukraine, proud of all those who are fighting for the country there.”