Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina said she was determined to give her war-torn country something to cheer about with her achievements on the tennis court after beating Russian 11th seed Veronika Kudermetova to reach the final of the Italian Open.
Kalinina’s entire family is now in Kyiv following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which Moscow calls a “special military operation” — but constantly face danger. A bomb recently exploded near a tennis academy that her parents run.
The 26-year-old said her elderly grandparents had also relocated from their family home in the southern city of Nova Kakhovka, which is currently occupied by Russian soldiers.
“It’s really important to win every match, because of what Ukraine goes through,” Kalinina said after her 7-5 5-7 6-2 win on Friday.
“I really hope that I give a tiny, small light, maybe some positive emotions for my country. So I really hope that Ukraine enjoys a little bit.”
Kalinina did not shake hands with Kudermetova at the net after the match.
“We didn’t shake hands because the girl is from Russia basically. It’s no secret why I didn’t shake, because this country attacked Ukraine,” Kalinina said.
“This is sport, I understand, but it’s also kind of a political thing. It’s nothing personal. But in general, yes, it’s not acceptable.”
Kalinina will meet Moscow-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina in the final later on Saturday and the world number 47 can expect huge support from fans at the Foro Italico in Rome.
“The crowd was supporting me so much during the two weeks,” Kalinina said.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I’ve never experienced something like that. They bring so much energy to fight when you don’t even have energy to do that,” Kalinina said.