Ukrainian tennis players boycott Russian opponents unless they compete as neutral athletes

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The Women’s Tennis Association has still not voiced their opinion on how they will handle the Russia-Ukraine war with regard to the possible suspension of tournaments held in Russia and the position of Russian players. Ukrainian WTA players are actively asking for the governing body of women’s tennis to take a stance, cancel or relocate Russian tennis events and make sure that Russian tennis players don’t display any national symbols. All this applies to Belarus as well.

World No.15 Elina Svitolina refuses to play her upcoming match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the Monterrey Open in Mexico unless the WTA voices their stance and bares her opponent from representing Russia.

Elina Svitolina
Elina Svitolina

The top-ranked Ukrainian WTA player wants the WTA to copy the sanctions imposed by the International Olympic Committee:

I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organizations: ATP, WTA and ITF. As such, we — Ukrainian players — requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colors, flags or anthems. 

Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organizations take this necessary decision.

I do not blame any of the Russian athletes. They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland. Moreover, I wish to pay tribute to all the players, especially Russians and Belarusians, who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential.

Marta Kostyuk
Marta Kostyuk

World No.54 Marta Kostyuk and world No.127 Lesia Tsurenko also took to social media to express their frustration about the WTA’s silence. Just like Svitolina, they emphasized that Russian players are not to blame for this political situation:

We Ukrainian tennis players would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response with the situation with our motherland. It is especially strange that in prior cases of social injustice and sexual harassment the response of the WTA was prompt, appropriate and bold.

Our country, Ukraine is under brutal attack by superior nuclear power. The bombs and rockets are hitting our houses, killing our people, destroying our life. We demand that the WTA immediately condemn Russian government, pull all tournaments out of Russia and approach ITF to do the same. Saying that, we fully support our colleagues from Russia and any Russian speaking tennis players as we understand that the unprovoked attacks happened without their knowledge and participation.

We also believe that we have to follow the guidance of the IOC which prohibits Russian national theme to wear regalia of the Russian Federation. While doping violation cannot be compared to aggression, we believe that insults, attacks, use of force and murder are crimes superior to doping, because they are crimes against humanity.

Stop the war. Stop Russian aggression. Bring peace to our homes. Be HUMAN.

Soon after the war started, Russian ITF events have been canceled indefinitely, while the ITF postponed a tournament scheduled to take place in Ukraine in April, due to evident safety concerns.

Meanwhile, Dayana Yastremska played a doubles match on Monday. The Ukrainian experienced first-hand a couple of days of the war in her hometown of Odessa before managing to flee with her sister Ivanna and make it to France. Teamed up with her 15-year-old sister, Yastremska meticulously put on the Ukrainian flag courtside before losing to Georgina Garcia Perez and Xenia Knoll 6-2 6-4 in the first round of the Lyon Open.

UPDATE: Svitolina will play her Monterrey opener on Tuesday, having been assured that Anastasia Potapova will compete under a neutral flag.

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