The tennis world united on Tuesday night against Russia, condemning the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine with the issuing of a joint statement by the sport’s international governing bodies.
For me, playing the match here, I'm not playing only for myself. I'm playing for my country, I'm playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need. Every victory that I'm gonna get is going to be very special. I think it's my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine because what we're going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians. Elina Svitolina
The ITF, ATP and WTA posted the following:
A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and we commend the many tennis players who have spoken out and taken action against this unacceptable act of aggression. We echo their calls for the violence to end and peace to return.
The safety of the tennis community is our most immediate collective priority. The focus of the WTA and ATP in particular in recent days has been on contacting current and former players, and other members of the tennis community from Ukraine and neighbouring countries, to check on their safety and offer any assistance.
The international governing bodies of tennis stand united in our condemnation of Russia’s actions and, as a result, are in agreement with the following decisions and actions:
- The WTA and ATP Boards have made the decision to suspend the WTA / ATP combined event, scheduled this October in Moscow.
- The ITF Board has made the decision to suspend the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation membership and to withdraw their entries from all ITF international team competition until further notice. This action follows the cancellation of all ITF tournaments in Russia and Belarus indefinitely.
- At this time, players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour and at the Grand Slams. However, they will not compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice.
Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina made a U-turn on her planned withdrawal from the WTA 250 event in Monterrey, Mexico, where the top-seeded World No 15 stated she would refuse to play any Russian or Belarusian players in protest of the invasion unless the governing bodies made a stand.
Hearing of the joint statement prompted a change of heart in Svitolina, who told ITV News that she would play the match wearing her national colours, the same kit she wore when winning the bronze medal match at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
“For sure it’s not going to be [just] another WTA match,” said Svitolina. “I feel like I have my country on my shoulders.
“Seeing how our people are defending our country gives me a lot of courage because they are standing tall, they are not scared to defend our land.
“It’s really special and I’m going to do my very best tonight if I step on the court and it’s going to mean a lot to me and to my country.
“I’m going to wear Ukrainian colours and for me this means a lot and that’s going to be a special night for me.”
Svitolina went on to win the Thursday night match against Anastasia Potapova, 6-2 6-1.
“For me, playing the match here, I’m not playing only for myself,” she said. “I’m playing for my country, I’m playing for the help of the Ukrainian army and people in need.
“Every victory that I’m gonna get is going to be very special.
“I think it’s my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine because what we’re going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians.”
Elsewhere, Ukrainian Tennis Federation President, Seva Kewlysh, is calling for Russian World No 1 Daniil Medvedev to be banned from playing at the Grand Slams.
Medvedev, who became the No 1 for the first time in his career on Monday, is one of the leading Russian athletes.
“Let [Medvedev] play on the ATP Tour but Grand Slams are ITF events, and if you lose the possibility to play in Grand Slams, he could never be world number one,” Kevlych said in a letter read by Reuters.
“He shouldn’t play in the French Open, US Open and Wimbledon.
“I don’t care that Russia is the holder of the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. It would shame them when the holders are kicked out of these events.
“For Daniil to not represent the [Russian team], it’s not a big penalty for him, but it’s a big shame for him. To represent a team with no flag, no anthem and no history in a team event, probably it would make him do the right thing.”
Medvedev called for pace in a post published on social media over the weekend: “Do you remember what I have said after the Australian Open final? This story was just about me, my childhood dreams.
“And today I want to speak on behalf of every kid in the world. They all have their dreams, their life is just starting, so many nice experiences to come: first friends, first great emotions.
“Everything they feel and see if for the first time in their lives. That’s why I want to ask for peace in the world world, for peace between countries.
“Kids are born with inner trust in the world, they believe so much in everything: in people, in love, in safety and justice, in their chances in life.
“Let’s be together and show them that it’s true, cause every kid shouldn’t stop dreaming.”
Andrey Rublev, the second highest-ranked Russian, wrote on the camera lens ‘no war please’ after one of his wins in Dubai last week.