Ukrainian Tennis Star Elina Svitolina Refuses To Play Against Russian, Her Opponent Responds.
The world’s highest-ranked Ukrainian tennis player, Elina Svitolina, announced today that due to the Russian invasion of her country, she would not play a “match against Russian or Belarussian [sic] tennis players until our organizations take this necessary decision.”
That decision, she said, should be for the ATP, WTA and ITF to treat Russian players as the IOC does, as “neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.” Svitolina is currently ranked 15th in the world. Her first-round opponent in the Abierto GNP Seguros WTA event in Monterrey, Mexico, today was to be Anastasia Potapova, who is Russian.
Potapova responded shortly thereafter saying: “Even when I was a kid, I dreamed of playing tennis without choosing a match, a country or a partner in the game. … For me there is no opponent from any country, I am fighting for victory, my best game, my best result. … Unfortunately, now we, professional athletes, are essentially becoming hostages to the current situation. … I am against grief, tears and war.”
WTA, ATP and ITF on Tuesday issued a statement condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which is being aided by Belarus, and announced that “players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour and at the Grand Slams. However, they will not compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice.” The two countries have been barred from team events such as Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
It wasn’t just players taking action.
Earlier in the day, the 38-year-old secretary of the Ukraine Tennis Federation, Evgeniy Zukin, slapped Tennis Europe chief executive Thomas Hammerl after an argument over what the Ukrainian described as a “disgracefully weak” statement from Tennis Europe regarding the conflict.
While the statement announced the suspension of junior events in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and urged “the international tennis community to show solidarity to players from the nations concerned,” it did not explicitly condemn the invasion.
Zukin told Telegraph Sport of the incident at a Tennis Europe board event, “I read the statement, finished my dinner, stood up, turned around, saw him [Hammerl] sitting five tables near me, and asked him ‘How come you could do this?’ He said, ‘Go away.’ I gave him a light slap and walked away.”
Russian Soccer Teams Banned From Play “Until Further Notice”, FIFA And UEFA Say
A day after World Cup organizers FIFA and European soccer body UEFA said they would allow the Russian national soccer team to participate in World Cup qualifying games, the organizations Monday reversed course and ruled that all Russian teams, “whether national representative teams or club teams,” are suspended from competitions until further notice.
The decision comes after Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic declared they will not participate in upcoming World Cup qualifying matches against Russia due to take place next month, the latest backlash in the sports and entertainment world following Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
“These decisions were adopted today by the Bureau of the FIFA Council and the Executive Committee of UEFA, respectively the highest decision-making bodies of both institutions on such urgent matters,” FIFA said in a statement today. “Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine. Both Presidents hope that the situation in Ukraine will improve significantly and rapidly so that football can again be a vector for unity and peace amongst people.”
FIFA previously said it will allow the Russian national team to take the field for the qualifiers, but as “the Football Union of Russia” and sans the Russian flag or national anthem.
International Olympic Committee Calls For Russia & Belarus Sporting Ban
Under the current World Cup qualifying schedule, Poland was scheduled to play Russia in Moscow and the Czech Republic to play Sweden both on March 24, with the winners to play March 29 for a spot in the November’s World Cup in Qatar. Those teams are now in limbo.
The UEFA suspension means the Russian club Spartak Moscow can no longer play in the Europa League, meaning opponent RB Leipzig from Germany automatically moves on in the tournament.
Last week, UEFA also said it was moving its Champions League final from St. Petersburg, Russia to Paris as the Russian invasion intensified.