Navratilova, who was born in 1956 in the Czechoslovak capital of Prague, remembers playing a Russian in a junior tournament there not long after the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded in 1968 to suppress a democratic movement.
“I know it’s emotionally so difficult,” she said. “I was 13, almost 14. I wanted to beat this junior, and, in fact, when I shook her hand after I did, I said, ‘See, your tanks can’t beat us!’ So, I get that. You feel like you are playing for your country, and it hurts! And I knew she had nothing to do with it, but I still took it personally. So, I get where Kostyuk is coming from, how much it hurts, but I don’t think you can punish people to that level.”
Medvedev, who has been based in southern France or Monte Carlo since his early teens, said that in his view, “tennis is a very individual sport.”
He said that so long as he had the chance, “I’m going to be there to try to play for the fans, play for other people, for myself also, of course.”
But though both the men’s and women’s tours have reiterated their support for the current approach, Medvedev knows there are no guarantees. Though he has never played his finest tennis in the desert heat of Indian Wells, one also has to wonder how much the uncertainty and the war are impacting his state of mind or how much it might have impacted his tennis against Monfils on Monday, as Medvedev’s precise game collapsed in the final set amid a flurry of double faults and uncharacteristic errors.
“Let’s see how the situation evolves,” he said of permitting Russian athletes to compete.
Next stop: the Miami Open, where the men’s main draw begins March 23 and where, with Djokovic still not expected to play because of the travel ban, Medvedev can reclaim the No. 1 ranking by reaching the semifinals.
But that, at this stage, is not the biggest of his concerns.