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Daria Kasatkina: Russian Tennis Star Speaks Out Against Putin’s Regime and War

Daria Kasatkina: The best tennis player in Russia criticizes Putin’s regime and war.Image: keystone

Daria Kasatkina is the best tennis player in Russia. She is a thorn in the side of the Putin regime because of her statements about the war and her homosexuality.

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The death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a prison camp last Friday caused international consternation. While politicians and celebrities in the Western world expressed their dismay and criticized Vladimir Putin, many prominent Russian voices remained silent. One of the few exceptions was the former Soviet world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who has long been one of Putin’s loudest critics, and Daria Kasatkina.

The Russian tennis player expressed support for Navalny’s widow Yulia Navalnaya on her social media, making her one of the most prominent Russian voices opposing Putin.

Sold parenting dreams

Daria, called Dasha, Kasatkina is Russia’s best tennis player. The 26-year-old is currently number 13 in the world and has already won six WTA titles in her career. She was born in 1997 in Tolyatti, around 800 kilometers southeast of Moscow. Once a thriving industry with the Lada car factory, the city was plunged into crisis by gang crime and drug problems after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kasatkina came to tennis through her older brother. When she was twelve years old, her parents sold their house in Tolyatti to support their daughter’s tennis career. “It was hard to realize that your parents were giving up their dreams to make your own possible,” said the Russian in retrospect.

“I want to be able to play against opponents who don’t have to be afraid that their tennis courts and their homes will be bombed.”

Daria Kasatkina

Dasha’s dreams come true. She has been a professional tennis player since 2013, and since 2021 she has not fallen out of the top 30 in the world rankings and is often in the top ten in the WTA rankings. She is one of the best tennis players in the world and is therefore extremely well known in Russia, where the sport is very popular.

Criticism of the war and coming out

Kasatkina uses this platform to draw attention to things that concern her. In the summer of 2022, she discussed, among other things, the war in Ukraine in an interview with the Russian YouTuber Witjia Kravchenko. She described this as a “full-blown nightmare” and explained that she wanted nothing more than for the fighting to stop immediately. “I want to be able to play against opponents who don’t have to be afraid that their tennis courts and their homes will be bombed.”

As if such statements didn’t make her enough of a target in her home country, the Russian woman also came out as homosexual in the same conversation. She made her relationship with Russian-Estonian figure skater Natalja Sabijako public. “For young people who are confronted with problems in public, it is very important when athletes or other well-known personalities talk about it,” was Kasatkina’s explanation for this step.

«Being at peace with yourself is the most important thing in life. Screw everything else.”

Daria Kasatkina

The young tennis player also wanted to no longer have to hide. She described the years in which she did this as the most difficult time in her life. The career had suffered: “I wanted to quit, had no more energy and couldn’t get out of bed.” It was only when she sought psychological help that Kasatkina realized what she had to do: “Being at peace with yourself is the most important thing in life. Screw everything else.”

Impossible return home and be careful with flights

This is also the motivation behind their public support for Ukraine. The Russian explained that she wanted to be able to look at herself in the mirror without being ashamed. She feels great compassion for the Ukrainian players on the tour, as their homeland is being increasingly destroyed: “I know how important it is to have a home. A place where it doesn’t matter that you play crappy tennis or just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend.”

“I don’t regret my statements one percent.”

Daria Kasatkina

Ironically, her statements have ensured that Kasatkina is now essentially homeless. As a publicly lesbian woman and war critic, returning to Russia is out of the question. When she is not traveling from tournament to tournament, the 26-year-old and her partner are now at home in Barcelona and Dubai. A Russian politician even wanted to officially give her the status of a “foreign agent,” which would have meant that Dasha would have been officially persecuted by the government. Her agent John Morris believes the tennis player is safe outside Russia. Nevertheless, the team is careful not to book flights that come too close to Russian airspace.

Kasatkina was also clear about what this step meant: “Of course I had to expect consequences. But I don’t regret my statements one percent. I couldn’t keep quiet and pretend everything was okay.” She was most worried about her parents, who did not want to leave Russia due to their advanced age and lack of language skills and still live there. “But they are doing well and they are proud of me,” said the world number 13. And: “If it means that I have to sacrifice my home to be a good person, then that is my decision.”

«Be better, love one another. Don’t spread hate.”

Daria Kasatkina

Boos and Ukrainian thanks

The Russian woman feels the negative effects of the war partly through no fault of her own – especially when she meets Ukrainian women. Actually, she no longer competes in tournaments as a Russian. After the invasion of Ukraine, the WTA Tour decided that players from Russia and Belarus would only be allowed to continue playing under a neutral flag. Before the start of the current season, Kasatkina said jokingly: “I could ask the WTA if I can play under the rainbow flag.”

Nevertheless, the Ukrainians refused to shake hands with their Russian opponents after the game in order to send a signal. Kasatkina showed understanding: “Of course the players from Ukraine have a lot of reasons not to shake our hands. I accept that and it is what it is. It’s a very sad situation.” Nevertheless, after the round of 16 defeat against Ukrainian Elina Svitolina at last year’s French Open, she was booed by the audience in Paris when she left without a handshake.

Daria Kasatkina’s message after the boos at the French Open 2023.Image: screenshot x.com

“I am leaving Paris with a bitter feeling,” she wrote after this incident. She was booed because she respected her opponent’s decision. Kasatkina urged the audience: “Be better, love each other. Don’t spread hate. Try to make the world a better place.”

A few weeks later in Eastbourne, the Russian learned that there was another way. At the grass tournament in the south of England she was stopped by a Ukrainian fan. There was not a confrontation, but rather a thank you, a request for a photo and, at the end, a long hug between Kasatkina and the fan.

In general, the tennis player repeatedly emphasizes how many positive reactions she has received since the summer of 2022 – to her statements about Russia, but also to her coming out. The 26-year-old is no longer afraid to express her opinion. Together with her partner, she produces weekly videos on YouTube in which she lets viewers take a look behind the scenes of the tennis circus with its sunny and shady sides. Kasatkina loudly criticizes the WTA and ATP tours for scheduling games at certain tournaments, which means that players are sometimes still in action at three in the morning. She questions the fact that ATP star Alexander Zverev continues to be marketed by the world association even though he is on trial in Germany on allegations of domestic violence.

And Daria Kasatkina will continue to use her platform to draw attention to the horrors of the war in Ukraine and the grievances in Russia: “I will never say that sport and politics have to be separated, we all know that they are very mixed is. And I hope that members of the LGBTQ community can one day live in Russia without fear.”

More about the war in Ukraine:

The play-in spots in the National League remain highly competitive. Ambri-Piotta beats Ajoie at the bottom and is worried about his defender Tobias Fohrler. He faces a ban after a confrontation with a linesman.

With a 3-2 home win against Ajoie, Ambri-Piotta improved back to 10th place, which just qualified for participation in the play-in. Ambri is now two points ahead of the eleventh-placed SCL Tigers and also has five games to play – compared to four for the Emmental team.

2024-02-21 18:25:48
#Tennis #star #Daria #Kasatkina #stands #Putin #consequences

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