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Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Roger Federer in the second round of Wimbledon 2013. This was the most important victory of his career, but not the biggest battle the Ukrainian tennis player will have to deal with. He retired after the last Australian Open, but now he will fight for his country: “I know how to use a weapon, if I have to use it, I will.”
At 36, Stakhovsky is another Ukrainian voice in the tennis world who has raised his voice in recent days. While Elina Svitolina, one of the best in the world, withdrew from Monterrey because she had to play against a Russian player, Stakhovsky has gone one step further.
He has enlisted in the army, and not at a cheap price. He has left his wife, Anfisa, and children at home in Hungary. “It’s been a horrible decision,” he told the BBC. “I still don’t know how I did it. It’s been very difficult for my wife. My children don’t even know I’m here. They don’t understand what this war thing is. They are too young to know.”
From the words of the Ukrainian, who was ranked No. 31 in the world in 2010, it appears that his wife has told the little ones that their father has gone to play in a tennis tournament.
But the racket is a long way from Stakhovsky’s hands, who will now wield a rifle.
“I hope I won’t have to resort to the gun, but I know how to shoot, and if I have to, I will,” explained the only tennis player capable of eliminating Federer before the Wimbledon quarterfinals since 2002.
“It makes a big difference to our military that they feel they are not alone, at least from a media perspective, but we also have to be realistic. It’s been eight years of war with Russia, where has all this coverage been during this time?” the Ukrainian wondered.
“None of them thought this could happen, and it has happened. None of the leaders of Europe or the world are ready to help, to fight in Ukraine for a better Europe for the future. If Ukraine falls, we will resist. But, to be honest, Russia has a population of 140 million people, stretching from Europe to Alaska. It will be impossible to hold out for long.”
Long gone is that second round at Wimbledon when Stakhovsky, with his serve and volley, stunned the reigning All England Club champion. “It was something magical,” the Ukrainian told the ATP. Long gone is that victory, now there is only war.