Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 2 June 2020

Simona Halep's former hitting partner feeds the poor, donates blood in India

Moldovan tennis player Dmitrii Baskov has been helping those in need in Ahmedabad after being stuck in the country since January

Moldovan tennis player Dmitrii Baskov has been hailed as an "Indian hero" after joining a campaign to feed Ahmedabad's poor during the coronavirus lockdown.

Baskov, who is a two-time Davis Cup player, arrived in India in January to visit a tennis academy before the pandemic took hold and prevented him from returning home.

The 25-year-old, a former hitting partner for Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, has since been helping out by packaging food for the needy in Ahmedabad, capital of the western state of Gujarat.

He is among a team packing bread, rice and other dishes at the Ace Tennis Academy, destined for the city's slums and containment zones.

"My friend mentioned this (idea of feeding the poor) and I said 'yes, sounds great' and the next day we did it and it continued day after day," Baskov was quoted as saying by AFP.

"One hundred, 200, 300 packets and then we realised we are doing some great stuff. It is not a daily desire or action, it is now a natural act of helping.

"I am a sportsman and nothing more than that but the desire to help is always with me."

Ahmedabad has seen a surge in coronavirus cases and the city remains under strict lockdown, with only milk and vegetable shops allowed to remain open.

Both of Baskov's parents, who live in Moscow, are doctors and his father, who recently recovered from Covid-19, is working with the ambulance service there.

"My dad has plenty of stories of people almost dying and he is right there," said Baskov.

The tennis player has also donated blood to help people with thalassemia.

A volunteer at the tennis academy says Baskov serves as a "lesson in humanity" for everyone.

"He is an Indian hero and could be a role model for a number of Indians who have not come out of their houses to even help out in one way or the other," said Mitul Parikh, who packs food alongside Baskov.

Updated: May 7, 2020 03:45 PM

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