There is an unusual story behind the rising tennis star. Nineteen-year-old Russian Diana Shnaider, who went to study in the United States because of the war, is the first top-100 player since 1993 to play college tennis and not be a 100 percent professional.
She was born in Moscow, her current home is North Carolina, but she is not allowed to go to Russia. Although he does not live in his country, he does not hesitate to talk about it in superlatives. Well, at least in the interviews published by the Russian media.
Shnaiderová made her way into the top 100 of the WTA rankings this year and attracted attention not only by the fact that she is the only partial “amateur” in the broader world elite, but also by her statements.
While other Russian tennis players, such as Darja Kasatkinová and Varvara Gračová, are taking the first steps towards the desired change of citizenship, Shnaiderová strongly rejects a similar path.
In an interview with the Russian website Championat, the young player admitted that even her closest friends are trying to persuade her to change her citizenship.
“The coaches tell me that if I had a different nationality, more opportunities would come. Because Russians are not popular, they don’t get contracts like Europeans or Americans. We often discuss this, but I’m against it,” she said.
“I also told my parents and coaches, who tried to convince me. As a person who has played for the national team for so many years, I cannot do the opposite. I was raised as a patriot,” Championat quoted the tennis player, who is alone in the USA, as saying. Her parents stayed in Moscow.
In an interview for the Russian press, Shnaiderová had to answer questions that were supposed to guide her in the direction of criticism of Western society.
For example, she was asked whether foreign journalists often ask her provocative questions. “Not yet, it’s probably because I’m young. They give them to the older ones. So far, everyone has been fair to me,” said the player.
However, according to her, she is ready to answer any possible questions, just as she answers her classmates and people who are interested in her in North Carolina.
“I really like it here. People don’t care if you’re from Russia. They treat you well, everyone helps me at school,” Shnaider said, adding that she experienced a certain kind of hostility more in Europe.
“They often ask me there if it is safe to live in Russia. I always answer that for me it is the safest country in the world,” she noted.
At the same time, Shnaiderová agreed to represent North Carolina State University due to concerns that she would not be able to play tennis as a Russian. “First they took our flag, then some tournaments stopped inviting Russian tennis players. It was very stressful,” she explained her decision.
Varsity head coach Simon Earnshaw proudly announced in August, “We are extremely excited and proud to add Diana to the team. She is the highest-ranked and most storied recruit in program history.”
Shnaider made it to the second place in the world ranking among junior women and in 2022 she won doubles at both the Australian and US Open. This year, the first-year NC State University student has already made a significant impact on the adult WTA circuit, although her starts at tournaments are significantly limited.
She qualified in Melbourne and made her Grand Slam debut, then in the second round she troubled the Greek favorite Maria Sakkari, whom she angered with loud shouts during the match.
“If he yells in my face one more time, goes against me one more time, then I will want to talk to the referee,” Sakkari was upset at the time.
In April, three days after her 19th birthday, Shnaider won the biggest scalp of her career to date in Charleston, USA. She defeated compatriot and member of the world’s top twenty Veronika Kuděrmetová.
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