'So sad': Tennis fans shattered over Elina Svitolina announcement

Elina Svitolina, pictured here thanking fans after her loss at Indian Wells.
Elina Svitolina thanks fans after her loss at Indian Wells. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Elina Svitolina has announced she's stepping away from tennis as Russia's invasion of her home country Ukraine continues to take a toll.

The former World No.3 announced on Tuesday that she's taking a break from tennis because of mental and physical exhaustion.

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The Ukrainian said her compatriots' resistance of the Russian invasion had encouraged her to play through back pain, but "now I can't handle it any more".

"It's been an extremely difficult couple of months for me not only mentally but also physically," the World No.20 wrote on social media.

"For quite a long time I've been struggling with my back. The pain didn't let me prepare for the tournaments at my best.

"Meanwhile, observing with unbearable pain in my heart what is happening in my homeland Ukraine and with how much bravery and courage our Ukrainian people are defending our country, this gave me a huge push to continue and fight on court.

"Now, my body can't handle it any more and I need to rest.

"Therefore, I'm sad to announce I'll be missing Fed Cup and few of my favourite tournaments in Europe.

"But I'm sure I'll see your around soon. Thank you all for your support in the challenging period."

Fans were left gutted after Svitolina's sad announcement.

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Elina Svitolina rocked by devastating scenes in Ukraine

The 27-year-old, who has won 16 WTA titles, has struggled for form since her quarter-final defeat at the US Open last year.

She lost her first match at Indian Wells last week against World No.122 Harriet Dart of Britain, before going down to Heather Watson in the second round at the Miami Open.

Earlier this month, the 2018 WTA Finals champion refused to play Anastasia Potapova at the Monterray Open unless the Russian was classed as a neutral athlete.

Her sabbatical means she will be absent from Ukraine's Fed Cup clash with the United States next month, and it remains to be seen if she will return in time for the French Open at the end of May.

Elina Svitolina, pictured here in action against Heather Watson at the Miami Open.
Elina Svitolina in action against Heather Watson at the Miami Open. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Gael Monfils, who recently married Svitolina, said it was difficult to bear witness to the family's stress and pain.

"My second family, let's say, is battling," he said recently.

"It's not easy a couple of weeks ago to see my wife crying every night.

"Of course, I was, and I am, being there for her every day, for her, for her family. Quite a lot of family still there.

"It's tough to describe because I'm in it. I'm in it. And it's just kind of crazy you know, when you think about it."

The Frenchman said he would do anything he could to help keep his extended family safe.

"We try to manage it the best we can," he said.

"Definitely for myself, I try to be the shoulder, to be everything she can lean on, and definitely to my second family I do anything for them to make them happy and safe."

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