In her debut season, Anastasiya Dyadchenko has made a clear statement — the Blues tennis team has true talent within their lines. A second-year student, pursuing a double major in criminology and political science, Dyadchenko helped the Blues become the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) 2022–2023 women’s tennis champions — their third title in four years. Dyadchenko also won two big individual awards with the Blues: 2022–2023 Women’s Rookie of the Year and 2022–2023 Women’s Player of the Year. 

However, her journey in tennis started long before migrating to Canada seven years ago. It was at the age of eight in her country of birth, Ukraine, that she began playing the sport. Her dad, who had never played tennis before, learned how to play by watching YouTube videos and taught her everything he knew. “He was my coach for four years there,” Dyadchenko explained in an interview with The Varsity

While she’s unable to trace the original reason that got her dad into tennis, she said he “loved the sport so much” that she just started playing with him. “[Tennis is a] very, very big part of my life,” she remarked with a smile on her face. Growing up, everything was “tennis, tennis, tennis.” “With my parents, I feel like it’s all we talked about,” she added. 

To better understand her love for tennis, I fired off some quick questions to Dyadchenko, and she was fast to respond. Her favourite tennis player? Elina Svitolina. Her favourite tournament to watch? Roland Garros. Her favourite surface to play on? Clay. And, finally, her preferred brand of racket? Yonex. 

Tennis was always a big part of Dyadchenko’s life. BARRY MCCLUSKEY/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

Immigrating to Canada 

Rackets and tennis balls continued to be a constant in her life when she moved to Ontario. Dyadchenko expressed that she would “just play [tennis] indoors during the winter and outdoors in the summer,” and noted that weather patterns are similar in Ukraine and Canada. 

However, moving to a new country wasn’t easy for her. “Tournament structure and practices are completely different from Ukraine,” said Dyadchenko. She went from practicing with her dad to now having a coach and a club where she would train with other players. “[I had to] learn a new language as well,” she added. 

Nevertheless, tennis opened many doors for her. “I was able to travel the world, [and] meet new people,” she said. Playing among the best 1,000 juniors in the world two years ago, Dyadchenko had the opportunity to showcase her abilities around the globe, from France to Madagascar to the Caribbean to Mexico — and, of course, to Canada. 

A supportive community 

Dyadchenko usually plays singles, but on the Blues team, she has also formed an undefeated partnership with Maria Popova. Both players were named OUA All-Stars after their performance at this year’s OUA championship. Furthermore, the two have known each other since they were 13 years old. 

“We played at the same club, and we travelled to tournaments together,” Dyadchenko explained. The connection can be seen as the duo hasn’t lost a single match of the six they played together this year. With bright eyes, she explained, “We’re really connected… [so] I’m used to playing with her. And I know her really well. So we can support each other when we play.”

Dyadchenko has been exceptional in both singles and doubles matches. COURTESY OF BARRY MCCLUSKEY/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

The supportive culture within sports knows no limits, even in an individual discipline like tennis. “I feel like I’m surrounded by really great people all around and great tennis players,” she said with a proud smile, after I asked her what it meant to represent U of T. She mostly played for herself before, so this new experience of belonging to a team is a learning experience. “It’s actually fun to be part of a team, and… it is a really great community.”

A good balance and a bright future

Dyadchenko also knows there must be a good balance between courts and classrooms. This year, she’s focused on her studies but has also worked as a tennis coach. She feels like playing and training for the Blues is “just a fun thing to distract [her] from doing work all the time.” 

The following season will be exciting for the Blues tennis team, especially because the men’s team has likewise crowned themselves as OUA 2022–2023 Tennis Champions. Also, the promising collaboration between Tennis Canada and USPORTS will open up the door for our amazing players to compete at a higher level. 

Both the men’s and women’s tennis team had stellar seasons. COURTESY OF TERRENCE TONG/VARSITY BLUES MEDIA

Thinking about the future, Dyadchenko fears that the severe injury she had on her wrist two years ago, will affect her professional tennis career, “I think I just want to play tennis on the side while I’m focusing on my studies.” 

The two awards she won this year, which also included the OUA Athlete of the Week on October 8, reinforced her talent as a tennis player, and motivated her as the injuries have kept her outside the courts for a while. 

“It’s really cool to win awards like that,” she said. She remarked that they aren’t just personal achievements but also represent the achievements of extraordinary tennis players accompanying her on the team. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without my team. [They are] so supportive that I feel like I would never be able to do it without them,” she reflected.