Discover Daria Kasatkina: Russia’s gay anti-war tennis star


Gay Russian tennis player Daria Kasatkina wears a denim jacket and is held by her partner Natalia Zabiiako.
Image: Supplied

The gay, anti-war Russian tennis player Daria Kasatkina chats to QNews ahead of the Australian Open.

Daria Kasatkina is the opposite of what many expect from a Russian athlete.

She is outspoken against the war and she came out as gay with her partner in 2022.

Both of these didn’t go down well with her government and a return home is currently off the cards.

However, a lot is going right in her life.

Dasha (as she is better known) is in a relationship with Estonian-Russian figure skater Natalia Zabiiako who won a silver medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The pair have a successful YouTube channel where they show their lives behind the scenes of the glamorous but gruelling tennis tour.

Dasha has been ranked as high as no.8 in the world and will be competing at this month’s Australian Open.

We asked her about coming out, her life with Natalia (who also uses Natasha) and her hopes for the future.

You came out last year, what has the response been like from players and fans?

The response was better than I could ever imagine. I was ready for the worst reaction but instead, I’ve received so much support and love. And after that, I feel so relieved, it was the best decision I could make.

It seemed like your coming out was partly because of your partner Natalia, tell us about your relationship.

Natasha is the best person I could ever ask for. I’m often asking myself “Am I really deserving it?” I would say that being in a relationship with her and feeling all her support, pushed me for a decision to come out, because I felt ready and being with the right person.

You both have your fantastic YouTube channel, why did you decide to share your lives together so publicly?

We made this decision together. Natasha had her YouTube channel before and she wanted to keep going.

So we were just thinking of the concept for the channel and we came up with the idea of our life on the road, showing the behind-the-scenes of the tournaments which we thought could be interesting for fans.

She really enjoys filming, and editing and she does everything by herself. It’s not an easy thing to do, I’m really proud of her.

Has there been any challenges with the channel?

We were not sure where we can film and where we cannot, especially at the beginning. Because we didn’t know the policies of the tournaments and how people around going feel about it, but now we feel more free.

Of course, we always respect other people’s spaces and never filming when it’s inappropriate. Also challenging thing is to come to the players for an interview, especially for the ones who don’t know about our vlog, but in the end most of the time it ends successfully and we have fun interviews.

You’ve been living in Dubai, what has that experience been like?

I like Dubai, it’s a very modern city which develops so fast. I like the vibe and it’s a nice place where you can live, practice or have vacations.

Plus you can fly there from any part of the world, there’s always a direct flight from anywhere. And my friends and family can easily get there which in our circumstances is a huge plus.

You are coming Down Under for the Australian Open in Melbourne as well as the Brisbane tournament, do you enjoy visiting Australia?

Australia is an amazing place, people are amazing, it’s very modern. The only problem is that is so far away!

But I always enjoy my time in Australia and I was actually missing Brisbane for the past few years. To be honest most of us, we like Australia, it’s a really great place to be.

What are the fans like here in Australia compared to the rest of the world?

Fans in Australia are so nice! They give you the energy, it’s so important for the athletes.

They also know the culture of our sport and how to behave. I really appreciate them.

You’ve obviously had an incredible career so far, what are your goals for 2024?

My goals are simple: to stay healthy and enjoy the process.

All I want from myself is to be able to give 100% every day and be grateful for everything I have. I want to grow and improve as a person and as a player.

I really believe that that’s the way to achieve the things you want to.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Daria Kasatkina🐬 (@kasatkina)

As someone who has opposed the war in Ukraine and is out as gay, do you still find yourself being judged for being an athlete from Russia?

Tough to say. I want to be judged by my actions and the person I am, not by my passport.

If someone is judging me only based on my passport it’s completely their problem, not mine and says everything about this person. All I can do is try to be a better version of myself every day.

You’ve said before you would feel unsafe returning to Russia, are you hopeful you could go back one day?

Of course. You always have to hope and believe for the best. Doesn’t matter how it goes.

What do you hope for LGBTQIA+ people in Russia in the future?

I just hope that one day they can be themself without fear.

You can follow Dasha and Natasha on their YouTube channel @zabiiakokasatkina

Read next: Australian Open director calls for inclusion of trans players

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Dale Roberts

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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