Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has criticized the sport’s governing body, the WTA, for its “futile” response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The athlete, who is back in the ring after taking maternity leave, has spoken of the support of compatriot Lesya Tsurenko, who withdrew from Indian Wells in early March after suffering a panic attack.
The panic attack related to a conversation Tsurenko had with WTA CEO Steve Simon about the sport’s lack of support for Ukrainian players.
The former world No. 3 player told a French newspaper L’Equipe that the athletes from Ukraine at the Tour felt “empty” as they compete in the midst of conflict.
“We are afraid, we feel empty,” Svitolina said.
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina has criticized the WTA’s response in the aftermath of the 2022 Russian invasion.
Lesia Tsurenko felt unable to take on Aryna Sabalenka in Indian Wells after her panic attack
“What is happening to Lesya[Tsurenko]is very sad. People who haven’t experienced it really can’t understand what it feels like to not have a home, to feel safe anywhere, to have a family in Ukraine, under bombing, to know that Ukrainian cities are being destroyed. It’s fear and emptiness.” big at the same time.
Tsurenko, ranked 77th in the world, was due to face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in her third-round match at Indian Wells, but she handed the Australian Open champion a bye after an agonizing conversation with Simon forced her to prioritize her well-being.
The 33-year-old shared details of their discussion after making her decision, saying: “(Simon) told me he doesn’t support the war, but if players from Russia and Belarus support it, it’s only their opinion. The opinion of others should not bother me.
At the same time, he noted, if this had happened to him and he were in my place, he would have been freaked out.
Tsurenko and Svitolina were both competing in the Charleston Open, which begins Monday, but Svitolina was knocked out in her first match by Yulia Putintseva, a Moscow-born player who has competed as a citizen of Kazakhstan since 2012.
Svitolina added, “The WTA should have done more, much, much more on many issues. Now it’s too late. There were too many press releases, too many interviews. It was useless.”
The WTA and the men’s body, the ATP, have announced the shift taken by the National Football League and the All England Club that will allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate in Wimbledon this year.
Players from both countries will complete as “neutral” players and sign a mandatory declaration of neutrality.
Athletes are also allowed to play only on condition that they are not sponsored by any company owned or controlled by the state.
Last week, Ukrainian athlete Marta Kostyuk called out International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, saying he was wrong to support the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition due to their perceived success in other sports, such as tennis.
Marta Kostyuk has spoken openly about her discomfort facing Russian and Belarusian opposition on the field, often refusing to shake hands with players from the two countries.
Bach argued that neutral individual athletes from the two countries, rather than teams, should be allowed to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics.
But the president refused to draw on an official position on the athletes’ inclusion, saying the decision would be taken “at the appropriate time”.
When asked how she would react to the prospect of competing against rivals Belarus and Russia in Paris next year, Svitolina — who won the women’s singles bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games — brushed the question aside.
Svitolina said: I don’t think about it. It is up to the Olympic Committee and the Ukrainian Committee to think it over and do their job! My job as a player is to prepare.