Ukrainian tennis players Olga Savchuk and Katarina Zavatska expressed their feelings regarding the war in their home country as they’re getting ready to play against the United States in the Billie Jean King Cup by BNP Paribas Qualifying event scheduled to take place April 15-16 in Asheville, North Carolina.
Speaking to the media ahead of her first day of practice at Harrah’s Cherokee Center, 22-year-old Katarina Zavatska explained the difficult situation all Ukrainian players are experiencing right now.
“First week it was tough to do anything. Just to be even around, I don’t know, surrounded by people, who listen music, who laugh, who live, who talk, it was impossible. I understand people have to live, but at that time…” said the WTA world No.201.
Not a day goes by that Zavatska doesn’t worry about her family. Zavatska’s mother and grandmother fled to France in the first week of the war and they live in an apartment that the tennis player rented. Zavatska’s father and all the other family members stayed in Ukraine, in the city of Rivne.
“Every day I’m calling to my parents, my family, to ask them if they’re alive. It seems like very tough, rude, but it’s true. This is the reality right now,” Zavatska said on Tuesday in Asheville.
Despite the overwhelming worries, Zavatska strives to focus on tennis. After all, she has to earn money to help support her family:
“On the other side we just have to live. For example me, what I can do is to play tournaments, to earn money, to send this to my family to help them because nobody has a job right now there in my family. Everybody is just home. They have nothing to do to earn. They help also other people. Yeah, for the moment we live it like this and I try to do my best here to focus every day on tennis court as much as I can and help my way like this.”
Ukrainian team captain Olga Savchuk also expressed feeling guilt for being away from her family:
“It was surreal. It’s beyond explainable and imaginable. It’s tough to explain how we feel. Yeah, I think it’s very important to know it. As Katia said, it’s really tough. It’s like we live in two different realities. Here we are. Of course, we have to continue to support our families. But, yeah, sometimes just like having food, I’m thinking about my grandpa and aunt who are in bomb shelter now. How I can even have a cup of tea right now? My family is, like, underground. I have goosebumps when I even talk about it. I think I can speak about all of us, for sure, we all had also, in the beginning especially, emotions like guilt that you’re not there and your family is there. We went through all kinds of emotions. Now it sounds scary to even say, but you kind of get used to it. You wake up, first thing you do is check to see if your family is okay, and check the news. We do that basically non-stop.”
The Billie Jean King Cup Qualifier is a best-of-five match series that begins Friday with two singles matches. Two reverse singles matches and the doubles match will follow on Saturday, with an amended Saturday schedule possible if one team clinches victory in the third or fourth match. The winner will advance to the 2022 Finals later this year at a location to be announced.
Billie Jean King — who will attend and participate in Friday’s opening ceremonies in Asheville — and partner Ilana Kloss are donating $50,000 to Ukraine relief, while the USTA will donate 10 percent of the ticket revenue from the event to the Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund by Global Giving. Local sponsors Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos, Ingles Markets and New Belgium Brewing Company will also make donations. The USTA will organize a number of visible support activations on the ground in Asheville and will encourage fans to make their own donations via TennisPlaysForPeace.com.
Tickets can be purchased at http://usta.com/bjkc or at Ticketmaster.