Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, all international tournaments have been suspended in Russia and players from the country have been banned from a number of major events, including Wimbledon. Russian tennis is hence going through a major crisis, but it looks like this is just the beginning. Over time, these restrictions could lead to the sport completely fading away in this country that was not long ago dominating the WTA Top 100.
This article is based on world No.12 Daria Kasatkina’s recent interview with YouTuber Vitya Kravchenko. The highest-ranked WTA player from Russia, based in Barcelona, explains why children in Spain have a much better chance of taking up the sport and why future of professional tennis in Russia is very grim.
No international tournaments in Russia any more
Up to 12 years of age, you wouldn’t get much trouble as national tennis is well-developed in Russia, but going forward, that’s when you face problems, Kasatkina explained. Due to sanctions, there are no more international tournaments in Russia, so children would need to travel abroad to start their transition towards professional tennis and it is extremely expensive, and sometimes even impossible due to restrictions. Consequently, tennis in Russia could slowly start to disappear, since competition is the most important aspect of the game and those kids would stop playing when they are faced with the obstacles.
Expensive and unavailable equipment
Tennis racquets, tennis balls, tennis apparel and shoes, it’s always been pricey and it will only get more expensive and less available in Russia, given the current situation. Due to sanctions, tennis racquets and other products can’t be imported, so players can’t easily get hold of necessary equipment. They would have to find smuggled goods, which is complicated and increases the price.
People will probably play much less tennis, that’s the conclusion. Only on the amateur level will it be possible. There will be no possibilities for young generations to become professional. Kasatkina pointed out that only 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds still have some chance to succeed internationally, as they have time to leave the country. Russian juniors will have their careers cut at the root.
Cold weather in Russia
Even before this political situation greatly limited the position of Russian athletes, it was hard and expensive to build a professional tennis career in Russia. In Barcelona, the weather is warm most of the time and there are numerous tennis courts readily available at low prices, so children have many more opportunities. In Moscow, due to low temperatures, tennis courts need to be covered, which significantly increases their prices.
One hour tennis court for two costs 16 euros in Barcelona, while in Russia, as Kasatkina remembers, one hour on the court costs 5000 rubles, which is almost 90 euros. Moreover, there are also not many tennis courts in Russia, so kids spend additional time and money to get to them in cold weather, while in Barcelona everything is nearby and affordable to local kids.
Before your chances where slim to none, now they are zero
It has always been hard to start a tennis career and, as we know, only the Top 100-200 players in the world can live from this sport. The 25-year-old Kasatkina concluded that it would be easier to win lottery than become a top-level tennis player from Russia:
Before, the probability for kids to become professionals and start earning money was meagre. The chance was already miserable and now it will be even lower down to zero. We’ll have more chances to win if we buy lottery tickets.
Despite challenging circumstances, players from Russia had more than twice as many Top 100 players in the 2009 WTA year-end rankings as the second-place country and won more than twice as many Tour singles titles as the second-place country. Fast forward 13 years, what we’re having on the WTA and ATP tours could well be the last generation of Russian tennis players for the time being.
Talented children from Russia will only have the option of changing their citizenship and moving out of the country. Of course, only some kids will have the possibility and privilege to do it.