'I will not play': Tennis star's defiant new protest against Russia

Pictured here, Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina speaks to reporters at a press conference.
Elina Svitolina says she will refuse to play anyone from Russia or Belarus in protest against the invasion of her native Ukraine. Pic: Getty

Ukraine's top-ranked women's player Elina Svitolina has issued a stunning new boycott of Russia after declaring that she will not play against anyone from the country, following the invasion of her homeland.

Svitolina also criticised the governing bodies of tennis, shortly after two of her compatriots aimed a swing at the WTA when they slammed the organisation for not taking a position on the Russian invasion of their country.

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Svitolina, ranked 15th in the world, is the top seed in the WTA tournament in Monterrey where she is drawn to play Russian Anastasia Potapova in her first match. Two other Russians, Kamilla Rakhimova and Anna Kalinskaya, are also in the draw.

The 27-year-old has made it clear she will also refuse to play anyone from Belarus - a key supporter of Russia.

Seen right, a shattered Elina Svitolina after Russia's invasion of her native Ukraine.
A shattered Elina Svitolina had already pledged to donate her prize money from tennis to help her native Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Pic: Instagram/Getty

"I want to announce that I will not play in Monterrey, nor any other match, against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organisations take the necessary actions," Svitolina wrote on Twitter.

"I do not blame Russian athletes. I wish to pay tribute to all players, especially Russians and Belarusians, who bravely stated their position against the war. Their support is essential."

Svitolina said the governing bodies of men's (ATP), women's and international (ITF) tennis needed to act swiftly in the face of Russia's act of war.

"I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organisations: ATP, WTA and ITF," she said.

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Svitolina was echoing two other Ukrainians, Marta Kostyuk, ranked 54th in the world, and Lesia Tsurenko, a former top-25 player now ranked 127, who both posted a letter on social media expressing "our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response with the situation in our Motherland".

"It is especially strange that in prior cases of social justice and sexual harassment the response of the WTA was prompt, appropriate and bold," they wrote.

"We demand that WTA immediately condemn the Russian government, pull all tournaments out of Russia and approach the ITF to do the same."

They urged the WTA to "follow the guidance of the IOC", which has called for a sporting ban on Russia.

Football's world governing body FIFA and its European equivalent UEFA have already followed the IOC's lead by declaring that Russian teams would be banned from tournaments around the globe, including this year's World Cup in Qatar.

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Ukraine stars hit hard by war with Russia

Svitolina is but one of a number of top Ukrainian tennis players affected by the grave situation in their homeland.

Ukrainian sisters Dayana and Ivanna Yastremska were forced to leave their parents behind in Ukraine over the weekend and flee to France, where they competed in a doubles match in Lyon.

The WTA tweeted a video of the pair in action, with footage showing Dayana with a large Ukrainian flag draped over her shoulders.

"Sending love back home," said the WTA caption.

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The pair lost 6-3, 6-4 to Spaniard Georgina Garcia-Perez and Xenia Knoll of Switzerland.

Dayana tweeted: "It's hard to be on the court when all thoughts about Ukraine, and family."

Dayana said her family spent two nights sheltering underground in Odessa, before her parents made the selfless decision to send the sisters off to the safety of France, while they stayed behind in Ukraine.

Dayana Yastremska and her sister were sent by their parents to flee war-torn Ukraine to the safety of France. Pic: Instagram
Dayana Yastremska and her sister were sent by their parents to flee war-torn Ukraine to the safety of France. Pic: Instagram

"After spending two nights in the underground parking, my parents made a decision at any cost to send me and my little sister out of Ukraine! Mom, Dad, we love you very much, take care of yourself!!! I love you my country," the former top-25 player wrote.

The Ukrainian tennis federation has also written to the European Tennis Federation and the International Tennis Federation demanding the expulsion of Russia and Belarus.

with agencies

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