"Collective Responsibility": Ukraine's Vladyslav Orlov on Russians, Belarusians

Orlov's ranked 373rd in the world and spent a considerable amount of time in India this year

by Sharada Iyer
"Collective Responsibility": Ukraine's Vladyslav Orlov on Russians, Belarusians

For about two months, beginning in February 2023, Ukrainian tennis player Vladyslav Orlov stayed in India as he played a flurry of events in the country. His road map through India began and ended in Chennai. In February, he played the first ATP Challenger event held in India in the city and in March, he wrapped up his Indian leg on the tour with the $15k ITF event in the city, in the first week of April.

The results Orlov had in these tournaments were a mixed bag. He didn’t get a chance to make it to the main draw in the Challengers in Chennai and Bengaluru, losing in the second and first round of qualifying respectively.

The 27-year-old did reach the quarter-finals of the four ITF tournaments he played – the $25k events in New Delhi, Lucknow and Mysuru, and also the one in Chennai.

How life changed for Vladyslav Orlov

It was during his time in Mysuru that TennisWorld USA got a chance to speak with Orlov.

Like his other compatriots, even Orlov’s had to deal with a lot on account of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The tour, as such, has come to be a reprieve keeping him – and the other Ukrainians – productively distracted while giving him and the others a chance to focus on their profession.

“Well, since the war started in Ukraine, it's getting more and more difficult for me, because first of all, my house was destroyed in my country in Ukraine. So, I have to travel a lot now. The last two months I was spending in India.

I was playing Challengers, three $25Ks. (In the) Challengers, there’s so much competition, sometimes you can really play on a decent level and still not succeed. So that's why like for me to keep going at a high level, I have to play also on the ITF circuit to try to get some points to just to go a little bit higher in the rank, which will allow me in the future, maybe, to get into main draw of a challenger, so I’ll be seeded as high as possible.

Anyway, this is a really tough sport and tough life on the circuit,” Orlov said. This is also why, despite the defeat and grind that accompanies players at the secondary and tertiary rungs of the sport, Orlov wants to keep at tennis.

And now, in the last year-and-a-half, his motivation to continue with his pursuits on the tour has an additional tinge. That of patriotism and helplessness about the situation back home, in Ukraine. “Tennis is my life and my job still; this is the thing that I (have been) doing since I'm 10 years old.

I have to especially at this point, I have to fight because my country is fighting. So, I have to do the same on the court. This motivates me,” he further shared. Not that it was easy for him to find this motivation in the immediate days of his country being invaded.

In fact, it’s still hard for him at times, considering that his family situation’s been dire. Orlov hails from the north-eastern city of Kharkiv in Ukraine. On account of its geographical status as a border city with Russia, Kharkiv was among the firsts to bear the brunt of the Russian onslaught when it began.

In Orlov’s family’s case, the destruction of his family home meant that his family had to move away to the Lviv, in western Ukraine. “My mom is travelling with me from time to time when she has a chance. The rest of the family is in Ukraine.

They are renting an apartment there now,” Orlov said, opening up about the circumstances greeting his family. One particular experience he shared about the situation there was chilling, and literally so. “That was one of the toughest winters we ever had in Ukraine,” Orlov noted about the latter part of 2022.

“They didn't have like electricity, sometimes, like 10 to 16 hours a day, which means no heating. And it's up to -15° outside. That's a really tough one. Regarding how can I how can I play when all this happens? Well, the first three months were really tough, because I couldn't focus on tennis.

I was following the news. And I was keeping in touch with my family all the time. It was really, really tough to focus on tennis. But you know, people can get used to everything. So after maybe half a year I get used to this kind of life and I just said to myself, I have to play tennis for my family for Ukraine.

So, this is what I do best. This is what I had to do so that we can get used to everything”. Given these troubles Ukraine’s facing, it was obvious to ask Orlov about the participation of his colleagues from Russia and Belarus at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

On the main tour, this question’s come to be a staple of sorts with several big names such as Iga Swiatek and Petra Kvitova taking a firm stand against letting their Russian and Belarusian peers play the Olympics because of the war, and until Russia stops with its aggression.

When asked if the subject came up among his Ukrainian colleagues in the Challenger and ITF circuit, Orlov said that it did. He also reiterated why he, too, was not in favour of Russians and Belarusians potentially playing the 2024 Olympics.

In the same context, Orlov specifically mentioned Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka as two players who’d not openly called out the invasion. “Of course, we are totally against this, because you don't know what they are saying behind the scenes.

Many, many players from Russia and Belarus, they support the war. Of course, they like publicly, they try to be silent, like (Daniil) Medvedev or (Aryna) Sabalenka, many of these players,” Orlov commented. Apart from this silence, Orlov finds it hurtful that some players from these countries refuse to acknowledge the damage and casualties that have been wreaked upon his country.

“They say that we don't want to talk about this,” he observed. “Their country invaded another country and killed. Again, not only civilian people, but also sportsmen. So many members of national teams from different sports, and also the venues so many venues have been destroyed.

So, of course, I think that all of them have to be banned until they until they solve the problem with their president and their country because they have Russian and Belarusian passports. So, they have to do it. It's not like they have to stop him, but they're members of their countries.

So, they are responsible. You know, it's called collective responsibility. That's my thought”. At a time that the LTA’s taken the call to have the Russian and Belarusian players play in Britain, including at Wimbledon, Orlov’s statement of “collective responsibility” seems to have fallen by the side.

He’s not unaware of these developments but Orlov’s keen on continuing to take responsibility for himself and what he’s set out to do. And that means going on where the tour and his ranking take him, to the next tournament, onward and forward. Photo Credit: KSLTA

Vladyslav Orlov