Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked female tennis player, has praised the decision of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and Wimbledon to support Ukrainian tennis players during the grass-court tennis season.
After Wimbledon announced that Russian and Belarusian players would be able to compete at this year’s tournament, organizers said they would cover the cost of two rooms for all main draw and qualifying players from Ukraine for the entirety of the grass court season.
Ukrainian players will also be given the chance to practice at courts in Wimbledon or nearby Surbiton between the end of their French Open campaigns and the start of qualifying week at Wimbledon.
“Most of the players they cannot go back to their practice bases, they can’t go home, so I think it makes a lot of sense to give them the opportunity to practice in London,” Kasatkina told reporters, per the BBC.
“They cannot go back home, they have to be always on the road and they have to pay all the time for accommodation, so I think it makes a lot of sense.”
On Sunday, Kasatkina beat Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko 6-4 6-2 to reach the fourth round at the Madrid Open, with Tsurenko opting not to shake Kasatkina’s hand at the net after the match.
A number of Ukrainian players have refused to shake the hands of Russian opponents on the tours since the war began and Kasatkina says she understands their decision.
“Well, the saddest part is the war still going on,” Kasatkina said. “So of course, players from Ukraine have got a lot of reasons to not shake our hands.
“I accept it and it is how it is. It’s a very sad situation and I understand. I was actually happy that she waved me back. I’m already happy with that.”
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, numerous sports governing bodies around the world issued blanket bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing.
Tennis – Wimbledon last year aside – didn’t follow suit, instead allowing players from Russia and Belarus compete as neutral athletes and Kasatkina said she feels fortunate to still be able to play tennis.
“I was really sad to miss Wimbledon last year – of course for a reason, but it still was painful,” she said.
“I’m happy that we will be able to come back this year and to be honest we are the luckiest sport as we are able to compete still.
“Ninety-five percent of the athletes from Russia could not go outside and compete in the international events, and we really appreciate this opportunity and that we can be on the international stage.”