FORMER tennis star Alexandr Dolgopolov has admitted he could ‘kill or be killed’ after returning to his native Ukraine to enlist and fight Russia’s invasion.

Like compatriot Sergiy Stakhovsky, 33-year-old Dolgopolov has swapped his racquets for guns in the last 12 months.

Alexandr Dolgopolov shakes Roger Federer's hand at Wimbledon in 2017


Alexandr Dolgopolov shakes Roger Federer’s hand at Wimbledon in 2017Credit: Times Newspapers Ltd

The former world No13 has admitted that it wasn’t a difficult decision to go back and fight.

He told Sports Illustrated: “It was a hard decision as in ‘dangerous,’ but not hard as in ‘difficult’.

“We traded a racquet and strings for a gun and bullets.

“You fight in sport. You fight in here, you have to put your life on it.

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“Maybe I’ll be killed. Maybe I have to kill. What can I say? This is war.”

Russian tennis players have been allowed to keep competing on the ATP and WTA tours – but Dolgopolov feels they have to do more.

He added: “They’re nice guys, they have nothing to do with it, but my position: this has gotten to a magnitude where Russia is really threatening world war and the death toll is very high – tens of thousands of people. Russian soldiers.

“The Ukrainian soldiers. Ukrainian civilians. They are getting murdered, thousands of them.

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“So this is getting closer to a genocide. And for this, I think that every reaction possible [should be deployed].

“I hope tennis will take a stronger stand like Fifa has done.”

Russian world No7 Andrey Rublev recently wrote ‘no war please’ on a camera after winning a match in Dubai – but Dolgopolov believes gestures like these aren’t enough.

He went on: “I know that Russian players have said ‘No war’, but that is not really a strong enough position for me at the moment.

“I think it’s a weak position. It’s not condemning their country’s actions. If the tennis world wants to keep them playing, they should really publicly condemn their government of doing the wrong actions.

“That is the only way the Russian people can stop Putin.

“And from what we’re seeing now, he has an unbelievably high acceptance level. It’s up to like 70 per cent.

The world has to know that we are fighting not only for Ukraine but for the world

Alexandr Dolgopolov

“They actually think the war in Ukraine is nothing. This is a joke. Their brains are washed with propaganda.

“If it’s in sports, if it’s with their rich people, with oligarchs, every Russian must feel that something is wrong.

“We’re thankful for what we’re getting and we see the people in the countries with us. But we need to push more together, because this guy [Putin] – I don’t think he’s planning to stop. The free countries have to call the bluff.

“Three of these clowns were standing with a map [on messaging app Telegram] and talking about how they [plan to] invade the other European countries.

“The world has to know that we are fighting not only for Ukraine but for the world.”

Dolgolopov officially retired from tennis last May, having not played since losing to Novak Djokovic in Rome in May 2018.

Dolgopolov, 33, retired from tennis last year having last played in 2018


Dolgopolov, 33, retired from tennis last year having last played in 2018Credit: Reuters