Russia’s number one female player says she is happy to return to Wimbledon this year and feels, that as a Russian, she plays the “luckiest sport”.
World number eight Daria Kasatkina has previously criticised her country’s invasion of Ukraine and described the war as a “full-blown nightmare”.
Russians and Belarusians will be back at Wimbledon after the All England Club lifted the ban it imposed last year.
They were banned in response to the war, which is supported by Belarus.
Players competing this year must complete a personal declaration which distances them from the war and the state.
They are also free to compete under a neutral flag in all other individual events in tennis and Kasatkina is aware others are not so fortunate, with many sports banning Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes.
“I was really sad to miss Wimbledon last year – of course for a reason, but it still was painful,” the 25-year-old said after beating Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine in the third round of the Madrid Open.
“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.
“95% 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.”
The All England Club and the Lawn Tennis Association have promised to cover the cost of two rooms for the entire grass-court season for any Ukrainian player involved in either the main or qualifying draw for Wimbledon.
They will also be able to practise on courts at the All England Club and in Surbiton as soon as their involvement in the French Open comes to an end.
“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 added.
“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.”
Kasatkina, who says she has already signed her personal declaration for Wimbledon, did not receive a handshake from Tsurenko at the conclusion of their match in Madrid.
But it is not something that upsets her.
“The saddest part is the war’s still going on, so of course the players from Ukraine they have got a lot of reasons to not shake our hands,” she said.
“I accept it, and it is how it is. It’s a very sad situation. I was actually happy she waved me back [when leaving the court].”