Svitolina’s telling reveal about Russian rivals
Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina has called on players from Russia and Belarus to come out and publicly declare whether they oppose the war in her homeland.
Svitolina – who has taken an indefinite break from the sport due to the conflict raging in her home nation – confirmed this week that she will also miss the French Open for the first time in a decade.
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The Roland Garros grand slam, starting in Paris on May 22, has taken an opposing stance to Wimbledon by allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral players.
Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, has barred players from those countries from competing at the All England Club, in protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The issue has been hugely controversial, with leading players such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic insisting that their Russian and Belarusian counterparts should be able to compete.
The ATP – the governing body of men’s tennis – has reportedly decided that players won’t be able to receive rankings points at the grass-court major – effectively reducing it to an extremely lucrative exhibition event.
Addressing the ongoing drama, Svitolina says it’s important to her and fellow Ukrainian players that their Russian and Belarusian rivals denounce the war, or else suffer the consequences.
“For us, for Ukrainians, it’s very important that they speak out, that they choose which side they take,” Svitolina told the Associated Press.
“We want to know, we want to feel safe about that. Because if they don’t say their opinion on this, we don’t know if they support their government, if they support the action of the army.
“Because in Russia and Belarus sport is a big propaganda.”
“I feel like they need to speak up about their position, this is very important. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a Grand Slam or (another) tournament.
“I think every Russian and Belarusian athlete should take their position, so that we know that there is no bad people among us.”
Elina Svitolina turns focus on Russian and Belarusian rivals
Svitolina was asked if any Russian and Belarusian players personally told her they are against the war.
“Very few. This is very sad because many athletes from different countries came up to us and showed us their support,” Svitolina added.
“That’s why it really hurts us and we don’t understand why exactly they (Russian and Belarusian players) didn’t.”
While Svitolina won’t be competing at the French Open, she says she will still travel to Paris to support her tennis star husband, Gael Monfils.
Svitolina says the mental strain of the events in Ukraine had led to her taking a break from tennis, with the stress also accentuating her ongoing back problems.
“For me it’s been a really rough couple of months mentally to hold everything on my shoulders.
“That’s why it was a better decision to take my time to really settle down.
“To be on top of the game you have to be 100% mentally and physically fit. For me it was not the case.”
Given what Ukraine has been going through, tennis is understandably not the 27-year-old’s focus right now.
“I have lots of things on my plate right now,” she said. “I have my foundation, I try to do as much as I can for people who are in need. This is the priority, the foundation and my family.”
Her foundation is helping Ukrainian children who have fled the warn-torn country.
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