Leonid Stanislavsky was born in 1924 into a family of Kharkiv doctors. During the WWII his father joined the Army, and Leonid and his mother were evacuated to Novosibirsk, Russia, where he worked as a fitter at an aircraft factory. Then Stanislavsky graduated from Kharkiv Aviation Institute and later he got his Ph.D. in mining. Being rather a mature age for a sportsman, he started playing tennis and continues to this day. Since the early 2000s, he has played at “Unicourt” tennis club. When Leonid was 90-years-old, he caught the eye of the club’s director Valery Burko, who gave a tennis masterclass to him. Since then, his name has become famous: he has been interviewed and had articles written about him. He is a steadfast participant of many international competitions for veterans. In 2015 and 2016 he took part in competitions in Croatia and Austria, and currently, he is preparing for the World Championship for seniors in the US.
Question: How and when did you start playing tennis?
Leonid Stanislavsky: I have been playing tennis since 1954. I got involved in tennis by Tetiana Voshchinina, the champion of the USSR in 1932. For many years, I had played on the courts of Gorky Park as an amateur.
Q: Do you prefer playing singles or doubles?
LS: I prefer playing singles as I am able to rely only on myself and make decisions on my own. It’s rather difficult to find a partner for doubles. However, if I manage to find a suitable partner, I’m happy to play doubles.
Q : Which surface do you prefer playing on? Why?
LS: I prefer hard courts because the bounce is predictable and fast, but I often play on clay too. I played on grass only once.
Q: What is your preferred style: defense or attack?
LS: I’m all for an attacking style, although I don’t always succeed with it as my tennis game is not perfect. But I am sure that only being active helps you to win. A good example of an attacking game is shown now by my favorite tennis player Elina Svitolina.
Q : Do you have a coach?
LS: I do not have a personal coach. I played with my co-worker Anatoliy Fedchenko. I have a sparring partner Anatoly Dariy. Sometimes, when Dariy is busy, I play with Victor Omelchenko.
Q: Which Kharkiv courts do you play on?
LS: All the year round I play on “Unicourt” outdoor and indoor courts. Sometimes I play on Superior Golf & Spa Resort court if I get an invitation.
Q: Do you play with different rivals or with the same ones every time?
LS: I try to play with different partners. If one plays with someone for the first time, it is always a new experience and an opportunity to develop. But it is much more comfortable to practice with familiar partners.
Q: Tennis is a rather costly sport. Who and at what stage started supporting you? Do any state entities or NGOs help you?
LS: My main sponsor is Yuri Sapronov. The Tennis Federation of Ukraine helped me with a trip to Austria only once, paying half of the cost. Oleksandr Nedovesov also helped me on his own volition. Once a year the owner of “Chornomorska Khvylya” hotel in the village of Lazurne, Kherson region, Oleksandr Kulida invites me to rest and train there.
Q: What is your training routine? Do you stick to any special diet?
LS: I train almost every day. I do squats, use dumbbells, run on a treadmill, which running area is made of ridges similar to those abacus have. They massage feet where nerves converge. I’m also keen on skiing. I am not on any special diet.
Q: Do any of your family members play tennis?
LS: My granddaughter Olha Bohatyrenko was a professional tennis player.
Q: What tennis racket do you play with?
LS: Currently, I use Head, which was a gift from the “Superior”. Also, I have Fisher racket. Both are made in Austria.
Q: Which famous tennis players have you ever played with?
LS: I got to play with Elina Svitolina, Marat Devyatyarov, Oleksandr Nedovesov, Andriy Medvedev and Mansour Bahrami.
Q: Who are your favorite current and past players?
LS: My favorite tennis players of today are Roger Federer and Elina Svitolina. I also cheer for Sergiy Stakhovsky, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Kateryna Bondarenko, Lesia Tsurenko, Olga Savchuk, Maria Sharapova and Andriy Medvedev. My favorites of the past include Pete Sampras, André Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Ivan Lendl, Martina Hingis, Valery Burko, Alexander Metreveli, Galina Baksheyeva and Dmitri Polyakov.
Q : Who of the world’s top-ranked tennis players do you wish to play with?
LS: Next year I hope to play a mini-set with Roger Federer.
Q: What your motto in life is?
LS: My motto is love life, stay engaged, make friends, socialize, let go and try to avoid quarrels. In my opinion, it is very important to play sports as long as possible, and if it is not possible, at least walk and stay alert. All seniors should keep up to date and acquire a computer.
Q: What would you wish for yourself?
LS: Now I have one wish that I may live to one hundred and keep playing tennis.
Text: Natalia Ivanova
Photos: Leonid Stanislavsky