Elina Svitolina refuses to play Russians at Monterrey

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina, ranked 15th in the world, said she is withdrawing from the Monterrey Open where she was slated to face Russian Anastasia Potapova in the first round on Tuesday.

Svitolina is calling on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and International Tennis Federation (ITF) to treat Russian and Belarusian athletes as “neutral” and opt not to show their national symbols, colors, flags or anthems in competition after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In a statement on Twitter, she announced she would not play any Russian or Belarusian players “until our organizations take this necessary decision.”

The Olympic bronze medalist penned a love letter “to my Motherland” on Sunday and pledged to give tournament prize money to support the Ukrainian army and humanitarian needs.

Svitolina will not face Russian players

Svitolina, 27, is the top seed in the Monterrey Open and said in her statement she does not blame the Russian athletes. But she urged the tennis federations to follow the lead of the IOC in stripping Russia of its name being attached to athletics.

Svitolina’s statement:

“I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organizations: ATP, WTA and ITF. As such, we – Ukrainian players – requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarussian [sic] nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colors, flags or anthems.

“Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian [sic] tennis players until our organizations 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. “

The IOC has advised international sports federations not to invite or allow athletes from Russia or Belarus “to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all participants.” If time is an issue, the IOC said federations should ensure those athletes are accepted as “neutral” athletes and do not participate under the banner of Russia or Belarus.

FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and UEFA, Europe’s governing body for soccer, announced Monday that Russian national teams and clubs have been barred “until further notice.”

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine hits a return during the first round of WTA Qatar Open tennis tournament match against Tereza Martincova of Czech Republic at the Khalifa International Tennis Complex in Doha, capital of Qatar, on Feb. 21, 2022. (Photo by Nikku / Xinhua via Getty Images)

Svitolina writes a letter to Ukraine

Svitolina rose as high as world No. 3 in 2017. She finished in the semifinals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019. On Sunday, she wrote a “letter to my Motherland” in Ukrainian and English. She signed it, “a proud Ukrainian.”

Svitolina told EuroSport many Ukrainians did not actually believe a war would start and that “everyone is terrified, everyone is heartbroken.” She still has family and friends in the country.

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