WIMBLEDON, England — Lesia Tsurenko’s Wimbledon campaign ended Friday with her head in a different place.
Tsurenko, a 33-year-old tennis player from Kiev, had been watching the news from home all week and saw the Russians. A shopping mall was bombed And Other civilian targets.
“They are trying to kill as many people as possible,” Surenko said of the Russian military.
Since February, she’s gotten better at keeping her thoughts to herself Russian invasion of Ukraine She was out of her mind when she was on the tennis court, but Friday was a bad day. She said she lost her balance from the moment she woke up, “with no ground under my feet.” He sued Germany’s Jules Niemeyer, claiming he “didn’t know how to play tennis”.
Juggling the constant travel and physical and mental stress of professional tennis is difficult for even the best players. For soldiers from Ukraine these days, the challenge is huge to get updates on the health and safety of friends and family members who spend their free time away from home for months at a time.
The good news for Surenko is that he appears to have found a semi-permanent home in northern Italy at the academy run by legendary coach Riccardo Piatti. She has an apartment. His sister Oksana recently joined him. Her husband, Nikita Vlasov, a former army officer, is ready to return when called upon, but for now the forces do not need anyone of his caliber.
“We don’t have any problems with people,” Surenko said after his defeat. “The problem is heavy weapons.”
Tsurenko left Ukraine before the war started, so he’s not technically a refugee. Recently, he had to miss a match, so he stayed in Italy and filed papers to allow him to stay there. She is waiting for approval. Also, his mother, who lives near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine, does not want to leave. Despite heavy bombardment. Her sister’s husband’s mother also lives there.
A stint playing tennis in England last month has given him a break. There were Russian and Belarusian soldiers Banned from competing At Wimbledon. President of Russia Vladimir V. Knowing how popular Putin is, Surenko assumed some Russian and Belarusian players would support him. Even if they return to competition soon when the WTA Tour moves out of Britain, it’s better not to clash with them in the locker room, she said.
There have been so many matches since the war began on February 24 that Tsurenko even considered playing tennis. One particular tournament in Marbella, Spain stands out. She saw a photo of the administration building in Mykolaiv with a massive hole left by a missile strike that morning. She couldn’t get the image out of her head.
However, recently, she got clarity. She always plays tennis because she loves the game. The riches offered by the game never motivated her. Now they do.
“I play for money now,” he said. “I want to earn so much so I can donate it,” he said, “and I feel it’s a bad quality because it has nothing to do with tennis, but that’s what I play.”
Coming into the tournament, Tsurenko, who has won four career WTA titles and earned more than $5 million, has won $214,000 so far this year. Reaching the third round at Wimbledon earned him an additional $96,000. For the world’s 101st-ranked player, that’s a solid month’s work. He hopes there will be more this summer.