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Svitolina: WTA "Useless" Response to Ukraine

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, April 5, 2023

The WTA response to issues Ukrainians face is "useless" says Elina Svitolina.

Wimbledon announced it will lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, permitting them to play the 2023 Championships. Wimbledon banned Russians and Belarusians in 2022 in condemnation of Russia's unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

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"The WTA should have done more, much more, on many issues," Svitolina told L'Equipe in a new interview. "Now it's too late.

"There have been a lot of press releases, a lot of interviews. It was useless."

The 28-year-old Svitolina made her comeback in Charleston this week bowing to Moscow-born, Kazakh Yulia Putintseva 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours, 47 minutes.

Shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, Odessa-born Svitolina announced she would not play against Russians or Belarusians and called on the WTA, ATP and ITF to follow the IOC and take action on Russian and Belarusian athletes.

"I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organizations: ATP, WTA and ITF," Svitolina wrote on Instagram. "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, colors, flags or anthems."

Svitolina showed support for Ukrainian compatriot Lesia Tsurenko, who withdrew from last month's Indian Wells prior to her scheduled match vs. Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. Tsurenko said on social media she suffered a panic attack after talking to WTA CEO Steve Simon.  

“A few days ago, I had a conversation with our WTA CEO, Steve Simon, and I was absolutely shocked by what I heard,” Tsurenko posted on Twitter. “He told me that he himself does not support the war, but if the players from Russia and Belarus support it, then this is only their own opinion and the opinion of other people should not upset me.”

Tsurenko’s anguish is a reminder of the daily pain Ukrainian players endure as their nation remains under brutal attack from Russian forces.

"What is happening to Lesia [Tsurenko] is very sad," Svitolina told L'Equipe. People who haven't experienced it can't really understand what it feels like to have no home, to feel safe nowhere, to have family in Ukraine, under the bombs, to know that Ukrainian cities are being destroyed.

"It's both fear and a great emptiness."

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve