Wednesday, May 29, 2024

After initially refusing to play, Ukrainian tennis star beats her Russian opponent

A Ukrainian tennis player thrashed her Russian opponent at the Monterrey Open on Tuesday after initially refusing to play the match due to the Russian military invasion of her country.

Ranked No. 15 in the world, Elina Svitolina was unwilling to compete in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) event in Nuevo León until the international governing bodies of tennis said Russian and Belarusian players could only compete as neutral athletes.

The three governing organizations issued a joint statement on Tuesday condemning the invasion and banning Russian and Belarusian flags and hymns.

Wearing the blue and yellow colors of Ukraine’s flag, the 27-year-old Svitolina swept Russia’s Anastasia Potapova 6-2 and 6-1 in 64 minutes. After the match, she said would donate her prize money from the tournament to the Ukrainian army.

Svitolina added that she was fighting for her homeland from the court. “I was on a mission for my country … I think it’s my mission to unite our tennis community to stand with Ukraine, to help Ukraine because what we’re going through is a horrible thing for all Ukrainians … That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing for my country and doing my best to use my platform to try to invite people to support Ukraine.”

Svitolina speaks after Tuesday’s game.

 

However, she said she harbored no ill feeling toward her opponent. “I don’t blame any Russian athlete … They are not responsible for the invasion of our homeland … I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy I’m here playing tennis.”

Svitolina, who won the tournament in 2020, will face Bulgarian qualifier Viktoriya Tomova in the second round in Mexico.

She has won 16 titles on the WTA tour and has reached two semi-finals in grand slam tournaments. Her highest rank was third.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has suspended the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation from international team competition and all ITF tournaments in Russia and Belarus have been canceled, while the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Association of Tennis Players (ATP) boards have suspended their combined event that was to take place in Moscow in October.

With reports from Milenio and BBC

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