The war revolutionized the life of tennis player-turned-military Alexandr Dolgopolov: if he still believes in Ukraine’s victory, the former professional player believes that this requires more help from the West.
An amazing journey! 35-year-old Alexandr Dolgopolov, a former Australian Open quarter-finalist and winner over Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells in 2014, has risen to thirteenth in the world rankings. Although his background did not make him a natural candidate for the military, the former tennis player began fighting shortly after Ukraine was invaded by Russian troops. Unlike another former professional player, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Dolgopolov had zero military experience and had only touched a gun once before the war. At that time, military training was short-lived.
However, he states that the experience he gained as a high-level athlete has benefited him a lot: mental strength, physical endurance, discipline and organization… The player, who announced that he will retire from sports in 2021, says, “High-level sports are difficult.” Due to injury, defeat against Novak Djokovic (6-1, 6-3) three years after his last match in Rome…
“We need three times as much to destroy them.”
The son of the former coach of the Soviet tennis team, the decision to participate was clear to him: “This is my country, I think we should do something.” It evokes the “courage of your people” and the pride of “fighting on the right side to defend what is yours” against the “barbarity of the enemy.” He calls on Western countries facing a long war to increase their support. “We need three times more soldiers to destroy them because they say we need three times more soldiers if we attack,” predicts the former player, who scouted the front in the Kherson region.
“When I first went there, the unit was under mortar bombardment. Most of it had been fighting since 2014, and the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine was being occupied,” he says. “I was fine when I saw that they were more nervous than I was. I didn’t know what was going on… I was pretty calm, which is actually a little worrying and not very good because when you don’t feel fear, you can make the wrong decisions.”
More than 400 athletes lost their lives
Dolgopolov still believes in victory, but he worries about Donald Trump’s possible return to the White House, that Europe is too “demilitarized” and, in his eyes, too tolerant of Russia. According to him, “it’s as if the West was asleep” in the face of Russia. In this regard, the former player is pessimistic about the participation of Russian athletes in the next Olympic Games in Paris.
“I’m sorry Russia got away with it again. They got around the (economic) sanctions and are now accepted in sports,” he sighs. More than 400 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have been killed since the beginning of the war; some of them may have gone to the Olympic Games, such as shooter Egor Kigitov or boxer Maksym Galynichev.