Tennis: Ukraine's Stakhovsky torn by turmoil in homeland

Ukraine's Sergiy Stakhovsky is finding it hard to focus on tennis these days.

The 83rd-ranked player in the world moved smoothly into the second round of the BNP Paribas Open ATP Masters on Thursday with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Poland's Lukasz Kubot.

But the post-match questions he faced weren't about the match, but about his open letter on the political turmoil in his country which was published in Sports Illustrated last week.

"No citizen of Ukraine is capable of staying out of it," said the 28-year-old from Kiev, where anti-government protests started and led to the downfall of the president. "I'm trying as much as I can -- thank god I have people around me that help me to do it.

"Whatever you open, every source, everything is pumping out at you... it's too much information and unfortunately you can't stop yourself (hearing about it) because you want to know what's going on."

Stakhovsky said his biggest fear for his homeland, since Russian President Vladimir Putin won authorization to use military force against its eastern neighbor, was war with Russia.

In Sports Illustrated, Stakhovsky called his decision to continue playing around the world rather than going home to Ukraine at this time of crisis a compromise.

At least he has found interest and support from his colleagues on the ATP Tour.

"Many guys stop around and ask how is it," he said. "Everybody knows about the situation. We do have an international sport, with lots of players from different countries, the sport is the thing that unites us."

That includes players from Russia, Stakhovsky said, although he indicated that any players from Russia who might disagree with the path Putin has taken might be reluctant to voice that.

"I'm talking here to Russian guys frequently and normally because I've known them for years," he said.

"Russia is also a very nice country where you have a little dictatorship and you don't want to say too much out loud because it can backfire at you."