Ukrainian tennis star on frontline hits out at Conte after Russia ban remarks

Ukrainian former tennis star Sergio Stakhovsky criticised Tottenham Hotspur manager Antonio Conte after the Italian commented on the ‘unfair’ treatment of Russian athletes amid the war.

The Spurs manager controversially claimed over the weekend that sanctions against Russian sports stars are not fair. It comes after Russian football clubs were thrown out of UEFA competitions along with the national team being banned from qualifying for the World Cup later this year due to invasion of Ukraine.

Stakhovsky took it upon himself to reply and inform the 52-year-old of his stance on the matter. The 36-year-old – who reached a career-high world ranking of 31 back in 2010 – texted a furious message to Conte and posted a screenshot of it to Instagram.

He urged Conte to ‘wake up’ in the lengthy message, and was clearly frustrated by the ignorance after leaving his wife and three children in Hungary to assist the Ukrainian army defence of his home country.

“I am not sure you understand the situation in Ukraine,” Stakhovsky wrote. “Otherwise, I cannot imagine you would make a comment which would sound like you are sad about Russian athletes and businessmen.

“Millions of Ukrainians had to flee their homes because of the Russian invasion. Millions have to leave through hell in their own cities while Russian planes and artillery bombard them. Please wake up. Russians will have to carry collective guilt for the destruction and killings they are committing in Ukraine.”

Do you think Antonio Conte's comments were misguided? Let us know in the comments section.

Stakhovsky’s message came after Conte created the controversy on Saturday when he voiced his support and sympathy for Russian footballers and other sportspeople who have been sanctioned amid the invasion of Ukraine. Conte’s comments were seemingly a call for the separation of politics and sport.

“I repeat, it’s very sad that this serious situation, this war between Russia and Ukraine, is affecting football and the sporting [world],” the former Inter Milan boss said. “To know that Russian athletes are banned from competitions is very sad.

“I think it’s not fair. I know very well the work that they do every day for this competition. You have to pay for this situation, I think it’s not right.”

FIFA and UEFA have banned Russian teams and clubs from all their competitions until further notice, ruling them out of the men's World Cup in Qatar later this year and the Women's European Championships in England this summer. Russian club Spartak Moscow have also been expelled from the Europa League, while UEFA has terminated its sponsorship deal with energy firm Gazprom.

The Ukrainian Tennis Federation called on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation and ban Russia from individual and team tournaments. The ITF confirmed that athletes from the two countries will be able to compete in international Tour events under a neutral flag.

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