World No 15 Svitolina is due to play Anastasia Potapova in Mexico on Tuesday, but will only do so if her opponent is classed as a ‘neutral athlete’
Ukrainian Elina Svitolina has provided tennis’ leading organisations with an ultimatum on the eve of her match against Russian opponent Anastasia Potapova in Mexico.
Svitolina is the No 1 seed at the Monterrey Open and is scheduled to face world No 81 Potapova on Tuesday in the opening round.
However, following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendations that Russian and Belarussian athletes are either banned from international competitions or accepted only as “neutral athletes”, Svitolina has urged tennis’ three main governing bodies to act quickly and implement the latter sanction – otherwise, she will refuse to play.
“I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organisations: ATP, WTA and ITF,” Svitolina, the women’s world No 15, said on Twitter.
As much, we – Ukrainian players – requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarussian 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 Belarussian 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 Belarussians, who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential.”
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was one such Russian athlete to speak out against the war in Ukraine. She said earlier on Monday: “I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid. I have represented Russia all my life. This is my home and my country. But now I am in complete fear, as are my friends and family.
“But I am not afraid to clearly state my position. I am against war and violence. Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence. This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children.
“I am confused and do not know how to help in this situation. I’m just an athlete who plays tennis. I am not a politician, not a public figure, I have no experience in this. I can only publicly disagree with these decisions taken and openly talk about it. Stop the violence, stop the war.”
The men’s world No 1, Daniil Medvedev, also used the platform of his new ranking by calling for “peace all over the world”, while fellow Russian and world No 6 Andrey Rublev wrote “no war please” on a camera after a recent match in Dubai.