Ukrainian tennis star issues ultimatum over Russian & Belarusian rivals
Elina Svitolina called on tennis officials to act as she was due to meet Russian rival Anastasia Potapova
Ukrainian former world number three Elina Svitolina has refused to play rivals from Russia and Belarus unless they are stripped of their national flag, anthem and all other symbols at competitions.
Svitolina was due to play Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the Monterrey Open in Mexico on Tuesday.
“I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organizations: ATP, WTA and ITF,” wrote Svitolina, 27, in a message shared on social media.
“As such, we – Ukrainian players – requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarussian [sic] nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.
“Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian [sic] 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 Belarussians [sic], who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential,” added the Odessa-born Svitolina, who is married to French tennis star Gael Monfils.
© Marijan Murat / picture alliance via Getty Images
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended to global sporting federations on Monday that they refuse to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at international tournaments.
Where that was not feasible, the IOC said athletes from the two countries should compete only under neutral status.
Bosses at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) initially appeared confused over their response, with reports that the flags had been removed from all Russian players on their website, only to be returned not long afterwards.
Russian ace Potapova, 20, responded to the situation with a statement of her own in which she said professional athletes “are essentially becoming hostages of the situation.”
Russia has been hit by a wave of sporting sanctions since it launched a military operation in the newly recognized Donbass republics and Ukraine itself.
Russian officials have reacted by decrying the measures as overtly politicized and even discriminatory.