MELBOURNE—When she was younger, Katie Volynets used to fake stomach aches so she could get out of swimming. She was much more focused on improving her tennis.
At the Australian Open on Thursday, the 21-year-old American qualifier beat the No. 9-seeded Veronika Kudermetova, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2, to reach the third round of a Grand Slam event for the first time.
Born in the United States to Ukrainian parents, the 21-year-old Volynets grew up speaking Russian as her first language and learned English in school.
“They wanted English teachers to teach me English, so I wouldn’t pick English up from them,” she said of her parents.
Volynets said she’s in regular touch with her extended family in Ukraine, which was invaded almost 11 months ago by Russia.
“I have a lot of cousins in Ukraine and actually they watch every single match. They usually write me and I communicate with them. It’s really special. It’s really a difficult time,” she said, referring to the war.
“Before, everyone used to be able to move about the country however they wanted to and go on with their days, and now it’s just day-to-day,” she said. “I really feel for them. To have their support through all of this is incredible. Whenever I come out on the courts, I hope that I’m supporting them as well because they’re watching, and I stay strong for them.”
Volynets was asked how her family name should be pronounced. It seems like a perfect fit for a tennis player.
“I’m going to stick to volley nets,” she said.
And when asked if that was really how she pronounced it at home, she replied: “Now it is.”
ONE BALL TOO MANY
THERE was controversy on Court 3 in the second-round match between Jeremy Chardy of France and the Briton, Dan Evans.
With Chardy serving at 3-3, a break point down, a ball from Chardy’s pocket fell on to the court during the point, which the Frenchman went on to lose.
Ordinarily, the point would have been replayed but the umpire, Miriam Bley, only saw the stray ball late and awarded the point, and therefore the game, to Evans.
Chardy argued his case for 10 minutes but it was to no avail and Evans went on to win the match in straight sets.
“I was angry because she should stop straightaway, and she says she didn’t even see the ball,” Chardy said. “I don’t know what she’s doing because she doesn’t call in or out. She just called the score, and if she doesn’t watch the point.”
THE second-round match between Andrey Rublev and Emil Ruusuvouri was interrupted on Thursday when two men hung a Ukraine flag over the edge of the front row seats in the Kia Arena.
Rublev, a Russian, said his only problem was with what the two men were saying.
“It was not about the flag,” he said. “I said straightaway to the referee, it’s not about the flag, they can put any flag they want, I understand completely the situation. It was more that they started to tell me bad words and bad things. I said to the referee: ‘It’s not about the flag, but please can you tell them at least to not say bad words when I’m on the changeover.’”
Australian Open organizers banned Russian and Belarusian flags from this year’s event because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Rublev, the No. 5-seeded player, has been one of the few Russian players to speak out openly against the war.
For the record, Rublev beat Ruusuvuouri, 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (2), 6-3. AP
Image credits: AP