Rising Russian tennis star Favara Gracheva is ready to represent France – and could do in time for the French Open in May – as the defection process accelerates after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- Russian tennis is preparing to lose one of its fastest rising stars, Favara Gracheva
- The 22-year-old wants to represent France in time for the French Open in May
- It is believed that the Russian invasion of Ukraine accelerated Gracheva’s defection
Russian tennis has suffered relatively few niggles since the invasion of Ukraine, but is now poised to lose one of its fastest-rising players with its first defection to another country.
Varvara Gracheva, the 22-year-old from Moscow who has already moved from the 100 to the top 50 this year, is set to take French citizenship and represent France, having been based on the Cote d’Azur since she was 16 years old.
After she was narrowly defeated by Petra Kvitova at the Miami Open, she confirmed it sportsmail That everything was in place to make the move, and she would likely become the No. 2 player in her adopted country by Roland Garros in late May.
Gracheva, who chose her words carefully and was reluctant to say much, stated that this had been on her agenda since before the invasion. However, the process appears to have accelerated in recent months as she took the French citizenship exam in November and submitted her documents at the beginning of March.
It is happening against the backdrop of Wimbledon ending its agreement with Tours to readmit Russian and Belarusian players this summer, and an announcement could come as soon as next week.
Russian tennis is set to lose one of its stars, Favara Gracheva – who wants to represent France
For the past six years, the 22-year-old has been training at the Elite Tennis Center in Cannes
“When the operation started it was not close to the situation (war), no one knew what was going to happen,” said Gracheva.
It’s something we never aimed for. So why not? Why not take a chance? But the decision does not depend on me, there are other people who will decide my future. I’ll say more if I get my papers. We put all the papers in this month.
I’m fine, my main occupation is playing tennis. I would be glad to represent perhaps both.
Gracheva has been among the fast movers on the WTA Tour this year, but has gone largely under the radar. Her only widely publicized escape came when she lost the last final in Austin, Texas to Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, who refused to shake hands afterwards.
She has been training for the past six years at the elite tennis center in Cannes, on the same track as current compatriot and world number five men’s Daniil Medvedev, who has also settled there since he was a teenager.
Medvedev gave no indication that he intended to follow suit. In tennis, however, other Russian players – many in France and Spain – are known to have investigated changing countries.
The process may have been slowed down by the fact that so far there have been no issues with obtaining visas that might have been expected. Even the UK government has been reluctant to stop issuing visas, which is why players from all countries are preparing to play at Wimbledon, provided they sign an agreement not to make any gestures in support of the invasion.
In Miami, former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu was assessed on Tuesday for damage to her ankle after she fell on a baseline, screaming in shock and agony.
The Canadian, who beat Emma Raducano in the first round, seemed to be rediscovering her old form but had to leave the court in a wheelchair in the second set of her fourth round, while her distraught mother Maria looked on in the stands. “I’ve never felt this kind of pain before,” the player’s voice could be heard shouting.
The AO Arena in Manchester will host the four-team Davis Cup Qualifying Group, featuring Great Britain, from September 12-17. Two countries will qualify for the World Cup in November, with the draw to be held on Thursday.