Rafa Nadal comments ripped by Ukrainian tennis player-turned-soldier

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Sergiy Stakhovsky, pictured here in Ukraine.
Sergiy Stakhovsky has called out Rafa Nadal. Image: Getty

Ukrainian tennis hero Sergiy Stakhovsky has taken aim at Rafa Nadal after the Spaniard declared it was "unfair" for Russian and Belarusian players to be banned from Wimbledon.

Speaking at the Madrid Open on Sunday, Nadal said he didn't think it was right that Wimbledon had banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

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“I think it’s very unfair on my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal said.

"It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war. I’m sorry for them.

"Wimbledon just took their decision ... the government didn’t force them to do it.

“Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard.”

While Nadal's comments echoed those of fellow greats Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, they went down like a lead balloon with Stakhovsky.

The former World No.31, who famously beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, has joined the fighting on the frontline in his home country.

The 36-year-old took to Twitter to express his disdain with Nadal's comments.

“Rafa, we competed together. We’ve played each other on Tour. Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home?" he wrote.

“How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?"

Stakhovsky also tweeted: “If anyone could please find a quote where Russian or Belarus players condemn the invasion in Ukraine?

“Did they say that bombing major cities in Ukraine (full of civilians) is a barbaric act?”

“Did they condemn the invasion into a sovereign country?

“And don’t tag the “no war” or “stop war” (signs) because these statements sound like if the Ukrainians stopped fighting the war would stop."

Stakhovsky retired from tennis in January after the Australian Open.

The 36-year-old left his family to help resist the Russian forces in March despite having no military training.

“'The things they have done there [in Bucha], they cannot be human,” Stakhovsky said last month.

“You haven't seen half of what is real there on your TV. They are sadists.

"It's one thing when someone presses a button 200 kilometres away and the missile lands on a train station killing children, it's something else when someone is holding a gun to a child's head and shooting, or burning the bodies of women they raped.”

Sergiy Stakhovsky, pictured here standing guard at Independence Square in Kyiv.
Sergiy Stakhovsky stands guard at Independence Square in Kyiv. (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray echo Rafa Nadal

Djokovic and Murray echoed Nadal's sentiments on Sunday, saying they were also unhappy with Wimbledon's decision.

"I'm not supportive of players getting banned," Murray said.

"My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they're against the war and against the Russian regime.

"I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families.

"I don't think there's a right answer. I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I've spoken to some of the Ukrainian players.

Andy Murray, pictured here speaking to the media at the Miami Open.
Andy Murray speaks to the media at the Miami Open. (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

"I feel really bad for the players who aren't allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them. But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in.

"I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can't play, and I don't support one side or the other."

Djokovic told reporters: "I've spoken to some of the Russian players in Belgrade [at the Serbia Open].

"Obviously, it's not an easy situation to be in. Being stripped of the right to participate in one of the biggest tournaments, if not the biggest tournament in the world, it's hard, I understand that. There is frustration.

"It's frustrating knowing that you're not able to play. I still stand by my position that I don't support the decision.

"I think it's just not fair. It's not right. But it is what it is, they are entitled to make the decision."

with agencies

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