Ukrainian tennis player won’t play Russian unless tours act
NEW YORK (AP) — Top-seeded Elina Svitolina, a 27-year-old professional tennis player from Ukraine, says she will withdraw from the Monterrey Open rather than face a Russian opponent at the Mexican tournament unless tennis’s governing bodies follow the International Olympic Committee’s lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as “neutral athletes.”
Svitolina wrote Monday on Twitter that she did not want to play her opening-round contest against Anastasia Potapova “nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian tennis players until” the WTA women’s tour, ATP men’s tour and International Tennis Federation “follow the recommendations of the IOC” and bar those countries’ competitors from using any national symbols, colors, flags or anthems.
The Russian military assault on Ukraine was into its fifth day.
“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”
Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.
Another tennis player from Ukraine, 32-year-old Lesia Tsurenko, wrote on Twitter that she and others “would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response to the situation with our Motherland.”
Tsurenko, a quarterfinalist at the 2018 U.S. Open who’s been ranked as high as No. 23 and is No. 127 this week, called on the WTA to immediately condemn the Russian government.
The ITF said it has canceled its events on Russian soil “indefinitely,” and no events would be scheduled in Belarus this year. It also postponed an event scheduled for Ukraine in April, citing “heightened security concerns.”
“This is a fast-evolving situation. We are constantly monitoring events and remain in active discussion with the ITF tennis family, the ITF Board and security experts to decide and align around our next course of action. We stand united with the population of Ukraine,” the ITF said in a statement issued Monday. “Right now, our priority remains the safety of all those participating in our events. We will of course be providing more information as soon as possible.”
The WTA and ATP did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. ___
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