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Ukrainian pair hope their Wimbledon meeting can help war-torn country

Lesia Tsurenko and Anhelina Kalinina will play each other in the second round at Wimbledon (PA Images/PA)
Lesia Tsurenko and Anhelina Kalinina will play each other in the second round at Wimbledon (PA Images/PA)

Ukrainian pair Lesia Tsurenko and Anhelina Kalinina are united in wanting to use their second-round meeting at Wimbledon to help their war-torn country.

Tsurenko, who beat Great Britain’s Jodie Burrage in the first round, hopes their match will result in Ukraine being sent “heavy weapons” by allies to help defeat Russia.

Kalinina, a victor of Anna Bondar, wants to send prize money to aid her grandparents who are currently living in Russian-occupied territory.

Tsurenko, 33, is currently seeing a psychologist to focus on her tennis and has seen bombs explode just 100 metres from her house.

She says she is no longer affected emotionally by winning and losing and her motivation for playing is to remind the world that Ukraine still needs help.

“I feel that I play better, just because for me emotionally winning or losing doesn’t exist anymore,” she said.

“For me, there is a big issue in my life: it’s war. And there is nothing else that can beat this.

“I think with all the sportsmen that are able to take part in the competitions, also with all the singers that go to Poland, to Germany, and having all the concerts, that part when Ukrainians can just go and remind the whole world that we are here, we still have war and we need your help.

“This is the main thing that I would wish to happen, that we get a lot of heavy weapons.

“You know, it’s just that we should remind with the fact that we are here and we are playing for my country, for Ukraine. We just want to remind that Ukraine is in trouble and we need help.

Wimbledon 2022 – Day One – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Tsurenko booked her place in the second round at Wimbledon (Steven Paston/PA)

“For me, the toughest part now is that a lot of people that I know that they are on the front line now.

“One guy has been taken by Russians, so we don’t know what is going on with him. We know that he’s alive. Two more guys are fighting there at the moment, and a few people are dead already because of the war.”

Kalinina, who is seeded 29, is currently housing her parents in Kiev after their house was destroyed while her grandparents are stuck in occupied territory.

She has remained on tour and is sending prize money back to family and friends.

“I understand it’s hard to focus, but for me it matters if I win or if I lose. Because the more I win, of course I’ve got money. I’m not only helping my family, I’m helping other families and other people, and it’s not a pressure, it’s a privilege to play here.

“It’s a privilege to play every tournament, and to get the quality of the game means better events. You go further. You earn more money. Then I’m able to help, and I’m helping as much as I can and not only to my family. So for me that matters.

“I’m helping a lot to my family. I’m helping a lot to my grandmother and grandfather who is in occupied territory now. They can’t leave. So next door is like Russian soldiers with all their military stuff.

“I’m not a superstar so I’m helping with what I can. And it’s a lot to them, and for me that’s huge motivation to play. Huge.”

Speaking of the devastation the war has created to her family, she added: “First of all, their house was attacked. There are huge holes in the house, like huge holes. There are no apartments anymore.

“So now this home is getting rebuilt, so they can’t live there. So they live in my apartment where I’m living with my husband. It’s a very small apartment for my family, because, like, my mum, my dad, my brother, and they have pets.

Anhelina Kalinina got support during her win over Anna Bondar
Anhelina Kalinina got support during her win over Anna Bondar (John Walton/PA)

“So they are so happy and we are grateful that they can move, you know, that they have a place to move from Irpin city because Irpin is fully bombed.”

Wimbledon banned Russians and Belarusians from competing in the tournament – a decision that was not well received by much of the tennis world.

But Tsurenko, who claims only one Belarusian has spoken to her to offer support, is enjoying the lack of tension in the locker room.

“For me definitely it’s less tension,” she added.

“I feel good being at the tournament without having to see players from those countries again. In most of the cases it’s nothing personal.

“It’s just the situation that our countries are in a war now. So for me it’s definitely less tension and I feel better.

“I don’t feel good seeing them because, as I have said before, it’s about me personally.

“I don’t know about other Ukrainian players, but I just heard from one Belarusian player that she’s supporting us, me, and Ukraine, and she’s against the war.”

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