MUMBAI – Ukraine’s Elena Svitolina disagreed with the US Open’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete neutrally, and hoped that Grand Slam organizers would take a stronger stance in her country after the Moscow attack.
Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from competing in Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, but the United States Tennis Association has allowed them to play under a neutral flag on New York’s Hardcourt Major.
“It simply came to our notice then. I do not support it because I think they should have taken more serious action, “the former world number three told Reuters from Geneva.
“Our (Ukraine’s) sport has been postponed for at least 10 years because all the infrastructure has been damaged or completely destroyed. I can tell you many, many reasons that could play a role in the decision not to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete. “
Russian and Belarusian players, who also competed in the French Open, have been banned from their team events but have been allowed to compete as neutrals in the men’s and women’s tours.
The 27-year-old Svitolina promised to donate her prize money from the tournament to the Ukrainian army before withdrawing from the tour after losing in the second round of the Miami Masters in March.
Last week, he joined former Ukrainian Chelsea and AC Milan footballer Andrei Shevchenko as an ambassador for UNITED24 – a charitable platform launched by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to raise funds.
Born in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Savitolina expected more support from tennis regulators and was adamantly opposed to allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals.
The silence of his teammates from Russia and Belarus was also surprising.
“It simply came to our notice then. I think it has created tension between us, “Svitolina said during the video interview.
Svitolina thanked world number one Iga Suatek for her speech at the French Open, when Paul called on Ukraine to “stay strong” and remind everyone that the war was still going on.
Too much pressure
On February 24, Russia launched an offensive, which Moscow called a “special military operation.”
A few days ago, Svitolina, who is married to French tennis player Gael Monfils, learned that the couple was expecting a child in October.
“I am just excited about the news. And then a few days later the fighting started, ”he said. “It was very stressful, we were really worried.
“It simply came to our notice then. I don’t even remember what happened in the first few days. It was unbearable. “
War has changed him as a person.
“Priorities have changed, outlook on life has changed,” Svitolina said. “It’s not that I have never had family time with my parents before, but now I really enjoy spending time with them.
“They have the opportunity to leave Ukraine and they are in Europe now. A lot has changed inside, mentally. A war really does change people. “
Pregnancy will force her to take a break from traveling to fundraising events but Svitolina plans to return to work by the end of the year and she wants to return to the tennis court.
Svitolina, who won the Olympic singles bronze medal in Tokyo last year, said, “Now I think the last time I caught the racket was 20 years ago.
“I really want to compete in the Paris (2024) Olympics. This is my goal. But that’s not the first thing I’m thinking about right now. “
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