THE world’s oldest tennis player is refusing to leave Ukraine – and insists he is ‘not afraid of anyone’ amid the Russian invasion.
Leonid Stanislavskyi, who turns 98 this month, worked as an engineer to help defeat the Nazis in World War II.
He holds the Guinness World Record as the oldest tennis player, competing in the ITF’s 90+ age category tournaments.
And in 2021 he even enjoyed a hit with 21-time Grand Slam champion – and arguably the greatest tennis star of all time – Rafael Nadal.
But now Stanislavskyi is standing his ground in Kharkiv and receiving food parcels to keep him going amid the ongoing war.
The 97-year-old veteran, who declared his desire to live to his 100th birthday, will not evacuate despite Vladimir Putin’s army bombing his hometown and his family’s desperate pleas.
Stanislavskyi said: “I’m not afraid of anyone.
“I’m hoping that the war will end and I will be able to play tennis.
“My daughter Tanya is in Poland, she wants to take me there. But I decided to stay here. If I could get [to Poland] I would play there. But I decided to stay at home and wait for the end of the war.
“I have bad hearing so I sleep at night and don’t hear anything. Last night there were bombings, in the morning there were air-raid sirens again.
“I’ve stayed at home… I have supplies, the fridge is full. I sit at home, can’t go out and there is the sound of explosions everywhere.
“I defrosted a chicken leg and made a bouillon. Life goes on and I need to eat.”
Stanislavskyi’s fellow Ukrainian tennis stars are doing their bit to help the heroic defence effort.
Elina Svitolina is donating her prize money to her nation’s army while Sergiy Stakhovsky, who retired in January, has bravely returned to his homeland to join the army.
Stanislavskyi blasted Putin’s devastating approach as innocent lives are tragically lost in Ukraine.
And as well as saving compatriots, he hopes the war ends as soon as possible so he can compete at the next seniors world champs in Florida next month.
As reported by the ITF, Stanislavskyi added: “Tennis is my life, my destiny. I’ve played tennis at a serious level since I was 90, I’ve played abroad, I’ve played in World Championships, I’ve played in the European Championships.
“I hope I live to reach 100. I have to survive this frightening situation. I have survived World War II and I will survive this war.
“I never thought that I would have to live through another, more frightening war where people from both sides are dying.
“Mothers are losing their children, wives are losing their sons and their husbands.
“What is this? What good is it? In the 21st century, there can’t be war. The war needs to be stopped, an agreement has to be reached.”