Ukraine tennis chief concerned 'golden age' will lead to nothing

By Sports Desk July 21, 2023

Evgeniy Zukin says the only way to ensure tennis' future in Ukraine is by stopping the war started by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia, with Belarus' assistance, invaded Ukraine in February 2022. 

The war still rages on, but in sport, Ukrainian athletes are carrying on, with Elina Svitolina becoming something of a figurehead with an exceptional run to the semi-finals at Wimbledon this month.

Zukin, the chief of the Ukraine Tennis Federation (UTF), is proud of the achievements of his compatriots, but warned that the "golden age" of Ukrainian tennis could ultimately lead to nothing down the line.

"This is the hard work of all the players themselves and the federation, the clubs, who put in those efforts in the last 10 years – the results are following just now," he told Stats Perform.

"We are truly happy, so many players in the top 50 and the way they play is inspirational and they have chances of beating the top players all the time. It's great.

"But could you imagine if this moment had come in a peaceful situation, in a good economical situation, because our main focus as the federation in the peaceful times was to promote our sports so that the parent would decide which sport their child would take up.

"They might go to tennis because it has tradition, good results, good coaches, so that’s why we need results on top, to grow the mass participation, to involve more people at grassroots. From those grassroots, there’d be more players, and from there more talents who become professionals if they work hard enough.

"Unfortunately now this is not the case and the problem is not many will be able to afford tennis for quite a big period of time.

"This is a golden age for [Ukrainian] women's tennis, for sure, but I'm really worried what's going to be there when this generation stops playing, and for the next generation."

Zukin says there is little the sporting community can do. Instead, the onus must be on the war coming to an end.

"We need to stop the war. This is the most important thing," he said.

"We cannot do anything in tennis when there are bombings in Kyiv, not even at the frontline, even in western Ukraine. We need to stop the war.

"Tennis is dependent on the economic situation of normal people, who can invest in their child until at least 13, 14, when we can understand if the kid can be a professional.

"Then we could support them, find an investor or a club. Those first five, six, seven years, it's the parents who are taking on most of the expenses.

"We need to stop the war, get back our normal economy and get it even better, with all the infrastructure that we lost already – it's not going to be easy, this is what we see as the biggest challenge, the economic resurrection.

"It's not about how many [tennis] courts were destroyed, the parents need to invest in their kids and be able to do this."

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