Elina Svitolina has threatened to withdraw from this week’s Monterrey Open and refuse to play against any Russian or Belarusian players until tennis bosses agree to ban their flags and anthems from tournaments. Svitolina called upon the ATP, WTA and ITF to act in light of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The 27-year-old Ukrainian is currently in Mexico for the Monterrey Open, where she is the number one seed.
She was due to play her first round match on Tuesday against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, but has now said she will refuse to play unless demands from herself and her fellow Ukrainian players are met.
The group has called upon the ATP, WTA and ITF to ban players from Russia and Belarus from competing under their national flag.
Unless that demand is met, Svitolina declared on social media, she will refuse to play against any athletes from those nations.
“I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organisations: ATP, WTA and ITF,” she wrote in a statement.
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“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, colours, 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 organisations 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.
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“Their support is essential.”
Tennis’ governing bodies must act fast if they are to meet Svitolina’s demands in time for her to play in Monterrey, as she is set to face Potapova on Tuesday.
Her announcement comes after she pledged to give all her prize money from the tournament in Mexico and other upcoming competitions in the US to help support the Ukrainian military and humanitarian efforts in her homeland.
“I decided the prize money from my upcoming tournaments here in Mexico and in the States will go to the Ukrainian Army and to humanitarian needs,” she told Eurosport.
Svitolina’s decision came as she admitted she felt “useless” while her friends and family in Ukraine are “terrified”.
“Really until the very last moment we did not believe that this war would actually start and then everything just happened at night… Everyone is terrified, everyone is heartbroken,” she added.
“My family is there. Lots of my friends who didn’t leave the country are there. They’re fighting for their life, some of them are fighting for our country.
“It takes a lot of courage and it’s unbelievable that some people took weapons in their hands and went to fight for our land.
“The most painful thing I would say is I feel completely useless because I want to help them. I want to do something for them.
“Some of my friends are without electricity, without water, without food. They’re really struggling.”