In Depth Society, 01/04/2020

Kharkiv Tennis Player Celebrates 96th Anniversary

The current oldest tennis player not only in Europe but in the world, Kharkivite Leonid Stanislavsky celebrated his 96th anniversary on March 22.

Kharkiv Observer correspondent talked to Mr. Stanislavsky and asked him about his current life and plans for the future.

Kharkiv Observer: You have recently turned 96. What thoughts came to your mind on that day?

Leonid Stanislavsky: I celebrated my birthday with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel joyful as I managed to make it to 96. That’s a lot, I feel my age and struggle with it every day. In my opinion, people enjoy each year up to 70, they savor each month after 70 and I enjoy each passing day. Dozens of friends congratulated me via the phone, emails, and the Internet. But greetings from Valery Burko, the Unicourt tennis club director, and Yuri Sapronov, Kharkiv businessman and philanthropist, are especially appreciated. Yuri Sapronov congratulated me very warmly on the phone, wrote a big post on his Facebook page and sent a large food parcel.

“I have a Senior partner and friend. Five and half years ago we installed stands for 2,000 people at the Superior courts. In order to promote tennis, we invited Andrei Medvedev, Serhiy Stakhovsky, Fabrice Santoro and Mansour Bahrami to play the match. An old man came to the match with his tennis racket and asked to play with the tennis stars at the end of the game. That’s how we met. He was 90 years old then,” recalls Sapronov.

Kh.O.: We have been getting through the tough times now, it’s much more difficult for elderly people. How is your current life situation?

L.S.: Yes, it’s hard for everyone, but especially for athletes. Practicing and competitions have been canceled all over the world. Superior and Unicourt tennis courts have been closed so my training stopped. I practiced three times a week at the Unicourt Tennis Club. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s all in the past. Currently, I try not to go out, unless it’s necessary. When I’m out, I’m wearing a mask.

Kh.O.: Everything is unsteady now, many things have to be abandoned, but the worst will be over and life will go back to normal. How are you going to stick to your routine? What are your plans for the near future?

L.S.: Now, I’m reading the reports of leading virologists who predict that the virus will stop when it becomes warmer. I’m not happy that I can’t practice, but I hope I will be able to do it soon. It’s difficult, I have to overcome age-related problems. Anyway, I regularly do my morning exercises, run along the treadmill which massages my feet. Today, I jogged a little bit in the sun. There were few people in the street, but I put on a mask. If the situation improves, I will participate in the veterans’ tournament in Kyiv dedicated to Victory Day on May 9 and international competitions.

I’m planning to visit the UK to attend a presentation of a movie about me that was shot by Dann Labb and Rebecca Hanyon, the British TV journalists. They’ve been in Kharkiv twice, filming everything from my house to Superior courts, where we celebrated my 95th birthday. They followed me at Unicort, in Holland and at the World Cup in Umag, Croatia. Dan is always interested in the current situation in Kharkiv and about my life.

I also intend to go to the seaside where I stay in the hotel in the village of Lazurne, Kherson region, on May 25-June 10. The owner of “Chornomorska Khvylya,” Oleksandr Kulida invites me to rest and train daily there.

Kh.O.: What would you wish our readers?

L.S.: The elderly should be careful and contact as little as possible with young people. They might carry the virus without external symptoms. If possible, athletes, including tennis players, should not give up and keep fit. The situation will improve. We overcame the effects of the WWII, cholera epidemic in 1970 and we will overcome this disaster. We can’t be easily discouraged!

Kharkiv Observer team join the kind words of Yuri Sapronov addressed to our famous compatriot.

“Dear Leonid,

Thank you for being in my life, thank you for showing how to live, how to love life, how important sport is.

Thank you, a great Kharkivite!

The oldest (the most elderly, sorry) world tennis player who plays World Championships is Ukrainian!

Live long, please!

Remember, you promised me a match on the day of your 100th anniversary!”

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photos: Leonid Stanislavsky, Yuri Sapronov