Ukrainian tennis players urge WTA to exclude Russians, demand peaceful work environment


According to a transcript shared by @ukrtennis_en Twitter profile, Lesia Tsurenko, Marta Kostyuk and Elina Svitolina had an online meeting with the WTA, explaining how the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes prevents them from doing their job in peace. The WTA has firmly stood by the stance that there’s no place for discrimination based on nationality, and even fined Wimbledon for not allowing Russians/Belarusians to enter last year, but Ukrainian players consider that they are the ones being discriminated in this situation.

Lesia Tsurenko
Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine watching Marta Kostyuk during the second round of the 2022 BNP Paribas Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament

New mom Elina Svitolina, who has returned to competition this week, focused on Anastasia Gasanova’s “repeating Russia’s propaganda narratives about the war” and asked the WTA, “Is this even normal, is it fine for the WTA that such a person stays on the Tour?” The former world No.3 concluded: “If the Russians and Belarusians on the Tour support or justify military aggression in the same way as Gasanova, it means that they wish Ukrainians, our relatives, our friends and ultimately us to be dead.”

Lesia Tsurenko demanded answers: “What have you done, are doing and plan to do to prevent discrimination against the Ukrainians? To protect the universal human rights of the players from Ukraine? To preserve our basic right to do our work in peace?”

Marta Kostyuk hopped on the call while being in Kyiv, amid the city being under the attack. She pointed out how their country is being bombed every day, lacking transport links, how they are constantly unsafe and worried about their loved ones, and then asked the WTA: “And in these conditions, we have to compete with the representatives of the aggressor countries, because the WTA decided not to ban them. Ukrainians are in such conditions because of what Russia and Belarus are doing. In other words, these countries with these actions knowingly created an advantage for their athletes over Ukrainian athletes.”

According to the Ukrainians’ account of the meeting, the WTA representatives mostly stayed silent and had no answers to their questions. Following the meeting, the players wrote a letter to the WTA and now they are waiting to hear the Tour’s precise view of how the situation can be resolved.

It is really difficult to lead the WTA in these challenging times. First there was the pandemic, then the Peng Shuai case which is still unresolved, and now this war that is fueling hate and dividing players based on nationality. (photo: Jimmie48)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here