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Former Ukraine tennis star Alexandr Dolgopolov swaps racket for gun to defend Kyiv

Retired Ukraine tennis player Alexandr Dolgopolov has returned home to take up arms and defend his native city Kyiv from the Russian invasion.

“Used to be rackets and strings, now this,” he wrote in a post on social media alongside a photo of a rifle, helmet and flak jacket.

“Hi Kiev, I’m back to help with what I can and defend our home,” the 33-year-old who climbed to a highest rank of 13 in 2012 told his Instagram followers.

Dolgopolov’s playing career ended in May 2021 after a recurring wrist injury with three titles on the ATP tour to his name.

He said he had returned to help Ukraine’s struggle after being taught how to handle a rifle “with an ex professional soldier” during a visit to Turkey where he had taken his mother and sister for safety.

“I’m not Rambo in a week, but quite comfortable with the weapons,” he wrote.

“This is my home and we will defend it.”

Dolgopolov joins a number of Ukrainian sports personalities to take up arms against Russia.

Fellow former tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who famously beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2013, has signed up for his country’s military reserves.

Others to answer their country’s hour of need are two-time Olympic boxing gold medallist Vasiliy Lomachenko and world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, who returned to fight as soon as the invasion began.

Former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko is the mayor of Kyiv and told AFP before the war started he was ready to fight.

The 50-year-old’s brother Wladimir, also a former heavyweight champion, has also volunteered to take part in the resistance.

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