Daria Kasatkina reveals family fears after first match in Britain for two years
Daria Kasatkina branded the war in Ukraine “s***” following her first match in Britain for two years and revealed she is “very worried” about loved ones back home in Russia.
World number 11 Kasatkina, who was banned from competing in the UK last year due to the ongoing conflict, overcame Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina 6-3 6-1 in a politically-tense first-round match at the Rothesay International in Eastbourne.
The 26-year-old has been following the news on a daily basis since the outbreak of war and feared friends living in the Russian city of Voronezh could be caught up in the recent rebellion by the Wagner mercenary group.
Kasatkina, who is now based in Dubai, acknowledges Ukrainians are in a “way worse situation” and concedes she cannot see an imminent end to the fighting.
“My family, my parents are still in Russia,” she said. “As you can see, the last few days it’s been a big mess also there.
“I’m worried for my friends, because my best friends they actually live in Voronezh, where the guy with the private army (Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of Wagner) entered.
“I was pretty worried about that because they were very scared.
“Obviously Ukrainians, they are experiencing a way worse situation but also I can feel the same. I’m very worried for the people I love.
“It’s been a tough year, and we don’t know how long it’s going to be. Honestly, so far I don’t see the end.
“(It) feels s***, honestly. I’m not gonna hide it. It’s tough to face the circumstances for such a long time already. I’m just trying to be a good human in this scenario. That’s all I can do.”
Kasatkina was booed off court earlier this month following her defeat by Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina at the French Open.
Knowing Ukrainian players’ stance of not shaking hands with Russian or Belarusian opponents at the end of matches, she gave Svitolina a thumbs up, which was reciprocated, before walking to her chair.
There was little reaction from the East Sussex crowd on Monday afternoon as Kalinina followed the stance of her compatriots before swiftly departing Centre Court.
Kasatkina, who respects the reasoning for the post-match snub, admits playing tennis is providing her only escape from the war.
“When I’m on the court, I’m not thinking about it,” she said.
“I am in the different state of mind, which actually helps me to turn off from all this.
“Since the beginning of the war, I was actually following everything every day. It’s a lot.
“I was overwhelmed in some moments, and I’m just trying to turn off my head at least on the tennis court. It helps me a lot.
“I’m really glad to be back and to have this opportunity to play the tournaments, Wimbledon included.”