Ukrainian tennis prodigy Dasha Lopatetskaya on not being intimidated by others' success, and having a healthy relationship with food

Ukrainian tennis prodigy Dasha Lopatetskaya on not being intimidated by others' success, and having a healthy relationship with food

Daria Lopatetska might only be 15, but she's already making a name for herself in the tennis world

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A week after Daria won the Kidsland Women's W25 Tournament, she won the China Tonghai Women's $25,000 Tournament, too.
Photo: Kelly Ho

Remember the name Daria Lopatetska, because you'll be hearing it often in future. A mere week after winning the Kidsland Women's 25K Tournament in Hong Kong, the Ukrainian tennis prodigy trounced her opponents to take the title at the Lo's $25,000 Tournament, too.

Fifteen-year-old Daria, who also goes by Dasha Lopatetskaya, has four titles to her name and a remarkable International Tennis Federation main draw record that stands at 25 wins and two defeats, has clearly had a great start to 2019. She tells Young Post that competing in two back-to-back senior tournaments has been physically and mentally demanding, but added that the pressure wasn't enough to stop her from reaching the top anyway.

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"It's been a great two weeks," she says. "It's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but I've learned a lot of lessons. When I got here [before the tournaments], I felt like I was truly ready, and all the conditions - like the court and the weather - were in my favour."

Daria, who stands at around 1.8 metres tall, was not always the strong, active athlete she is now. When she was younger, she was constantly ill. It was on the advice of her doctors that she become active and sporty.

During her time in Hong Kong, Daria (left) stayed and trained at the Hong Kong Golf & Tennis Academy, where she was trained by the academy's tennis director Bastien Liveriou.
Photo: Kelly Ho/SCMP

When she was four, her mum tried to enter her into any number of tennis centres, hoping that she would get into the sport which would then improve her health. Most centres declined, on the basis that she was simply not physically capable of the activity involved. Finally, though, a club agreed to accept her, which was how she took her first steps into the tennis world.

In her first few years of training, Daria barely even picked up a tennis racket, and would run around the court with a ball instead. It was only after she won a tournament when she was eight years old that she began to take the sport seriously. 

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In the space of three years, she proved skilled enough to make it onto the junior national team for Ukraine. Now, after more than a decade since she began playing the sport, Daria says that she cannot imagine a day without it.

"Tennis is my life," she says. "It is more than part of me, it is me. To wake up early every day and hit a tiny ball ... that's what I live for."


Her journey has not been without its setbacks, though.

While she has had a flying start to this year, Daria says she was disappointed by her performance all last year. It wasn't until September, in fact, and the US Open Junior Tennis Championships that she found her feet, finishing fourth overall in the competition.

"That tournament made me realise I [was good enough] to outplay some of the top players. It motivated me to want to strive for more."

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The teen adds that most valuable lesson she has learned over the years is not to be discouraged or intimidated by other people's success. One should always, she says, focus on self-improvement. "There is always going to be someone better, who is faster, stronger, makes better shots," she says. "Ultimately, it's about getting the best out of yourself."

Daria, who was had never been to Hong Kong before this year, says she has been utterly enchanted by the city's mix of modernity and tradition, which is in stark contrast to Kharkiv, her hometown in Ukraine.

Hong Kong's reputation as a foodie's paradise continues to ring true, too, as Daria says that she will miss the food the most when she leaves - in particular, sweet and sour chicken.

Daria says athletes should not feel guilty when they snack on unhealthy food.

"I really love food," Daria laughs. "That's always the first thing I say about myself."

The Ukrainian national team player's philosophy towards food and diet is to, essentially, be kind to yourself. Athletes, she says, should not be too strict on themselves, or feel guilty when they snack on unhealthy food, because their bodies deserve a treat every now and then.

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"I don't eat a burger or a slice of pizza every day, but I never feel bad when I eat one, because I've trained really hard for it. I'm only 15, my body is still growing, so I give my body what it needs."

This mentality extends to her mind as well as her body, too, and Daria says she is excited about going home to meet up with her friends, her family, and her tennis coach. Once she has rested, she will begin her transition from playing in the junior categories to the senior ones.

"My coach and I haven't decided which tournament I will take part in yet," she says, adding it will all depend on how she feels. "Our main goal, though, is to get my ranking up, up, and up."

Edited by Ginny Wong

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
The ball's in her court, now

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