Jelena Ostapenko speaks about the controversial sanction by Latvia for playing with Russians, Belarusians


The news has been out that Latvia cut off financial support to Latvian athletes who compete in the same tournaments as Russian and Belarusian players and Jelena Ostapenko is among those affected by the punishment. We reached out to the Grand Slam champion herself at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open and she confirmed to Women’s Tennis Blog that Latvian sports authorities have reached out to her about new policies terminating the support.

The world No.25 said, “Of course they have reached out, but honestly there is really nothing to do because I’m not organizing tournaments. The WTA is the one who is organizing tournaments and I don’t have any opportunities to play in any other tournaments.”

Currently, there are six Russians and Belarusians in the WTA Top 25, putting Ostapenko in an impossible position. Referring to the reported policies, she said “It means if I don’t play any other tournaments, I have to quit tennis. But I’m not gonna do that because I’m a tennis player and this is my sport. I mean, unfortunately, it’s like that.”

Ostapenko made these comments after defeating Belarusian world No.44 Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5 3-6 6-2. The victory was particularly impressive considering a severe ear infection made her consider withdrawing from the match before it even started. She explained, “I was just trying to fight and because I never give up and I always want to fight and play until the last moment. I’m just proud of myself that I manage to win even not feeling really well.”

The 25-year-old Ostapenko faces Petra Kvitova in round 3. The Czech leads their head-to-head 5:4. Previewing the match on the famously slow hardcourt, Kvitova said it was going to be quick with one or two shot rallies. Like most people facing Ostapenko, she knows, “I will not have time to think where I’m going to put my ball.”

UPDATE: Latvia made a U-turn, abandoned the decision to stop funding Latvian athletes who compete alongside Russians and Belarusians.


  1. I am astonished Ostapenko relies on Latvian funding. I know she has no major sponsors but I would think her vulturing so many tournaments and playing every discipline possible (singles, doubles, and mixed) at most of those she does play, with occasional success, to about $1M-$2mUS annually would mean that she would have enough of her own income to not depend on national funding. I mean Ostapenko and Liudmilla Kichenok made the WTA Finals in 2022. At worst, I would have thought the worst Latvia could do would be to force Ostapenko to play without a flag designation, like the aggressor nations’ players have had to do for two seasons now.

    I cannot see how this would affect, say, Kristaps Porzingis or any other Latvian in the NBA, who are surely so wealthy as to be able to tell the Latvian government to get lost. The National Hockey League allows Russians and Belarussians to play without restriction, but I will be surprised if this initiative affects any Latvian pro hockey players. I would have thought Ostapenko, even with her career-long limited success, would be in the same secure financial situation, but evidently not.

    Thanks for finding this, Marija. I had not seen it anywhere else.

  2. If this is actually true, I cannot understand why Latvia doesn’t understand that Ostapenko doesn’t have any choices as to who else plays in tournaments. Also, the Russian and Belarusian tennis player are NOT responsible for Putin’s decision to declare war on Ukraine. The Ukranian players are also trying to put blame on the Russian and Belarusian tennis players and that’s not fair. Many of them don’t even live in their country’s. However, their country’s have dictators who certainly don’t ask for the opinion of their countrymen before declaring war. Also, Ostapenko is a very poor sport, not shaking hands when losing, blaming people for herself losing and acting horrible. She needs to learn to be a gracious loser as well as a winner. She also needs to lose 75 to 80 lbs. I’m not fat shaming, just stating a fact that she’s much too heavy for someone who possibly works out on the tennis court, at least, daily. Maybe she’s having some mental issues due to her country’s attitude, I don’t know, but she is not healthy looking. There are several tennis players (women) who have needed to lose weight and this year those have done so and they are now fit and playing at their best.

  3. What a pathetic childish government Latvia have. Yeah keep trying to punish your 40% Russian speaking population and completely innocent people who don’t want anything to do with the war (would be wise to make sure they are on your side in these circumstances). Ostapenko has done huge things for Latvian tennis too. Disgraceful!

  4. Ons jabour is no petite either pinko cracks balls She’s a bigger gal oh well she’s better then say 80 pct on tour still I’ve won thousands better her and her dog is adorable we love u Jelena and Jelena jokavic to both rawk

  5. Pretty crazy act on the part of the Latvian government. Basically it means she has to give up her job, which is not reasonable. Not even the Ukrainian players have to do that. But as the person says above, I am surprised that she needs funding. She won a grand slam and that alone is worth a few million dollars!

  6. I am more worried about whereispengshuai than this latvian multi millionaire
    please check her life earnings in tennis, propably between 7 to 10 millions, just guessing
    let her threaten to quit tennis she has displayed a poor attitude lately towards her fellow players
    the latvian government does the correct thing


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