Former world No.13 Alex Dolgopolov has claimed his tennis career is helping him in his fight for Ukraine against Russia. Dolgopolov reached the 2011 Australian Open quarter-finals where he lost to Andy Murray and twice beat Rafa Nadal.
The Ukrainian, now 35, officially retired in 2021 but returned to his homeland in March last year “for moral reasons” to fight the Russian invasion. After basic military training, he has witnessed his “comrades” killed and suffer serious injuries in the brutal combat.
He revealed his “worst day” was an “intense” mortar attack by enemy forces where Ukrainians had to take cover in trenches. But Dolgopolov, who is now working with Ukraine’s Directorate of Intelligence (GUR), said his previous highly pressurised career gave him some preparation for fighting for his country.
“Tennis is a small war as well,” he told BBC Radio 4. “You need to be mentally strong as well. You need to take fast decisions, you deal with high pressure, nerves and everything. You can transfer that to the war as well in another way. But I believe that for me, it is a little bit easier than for just a regular person.”
But he added: “It has been tough on the battlefield in the last year. We have had guys injured. We didn’t have big successes but we didn’t have big losses in terms of territory. It has not been easy.
“For sure there were times where I feared for my life. When they are firing and it is getting really close, you know that they know approximately where you are. So when the round exits, you hear that and then you have those seconds when it is flying and then the arrival. It is like a loud whistle coming in and then the impact. The impact, you hope it is not exactly on the top of your trench.”
“If it is one or more metres from you, you should be fine because you’re half or one metre under the ground. if it doesn’t hit the ceiling, you should be OK, but you don’t know that.”
The USA has given Ukraine $100bn in aid since the February 2022 invasion but Republicans in Congress have blocked a further $60bn package until the New Year. And Hungary’s Viktor Orban is delaying more EU aid to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his military wants another 500,000 fighters to sign up but they need equipment.
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Dolgopolov added: “We need armoury and instruments to win this war. At the moment, mathematically we’re not in a good position,” he said. “On the battlefield, Russia have advantages in most things – more people, more armoury and more artillery rounds.
“Is the world doing enough? I don’t think so. I think it is obvious by now. “We are not getting enough, not fast enough, not enough quantity, it is a big war and we need much more. I think the West needs to wake up and understand it’s not just Ukraine’s problem. Actions have to be taken.”
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