Russian world number one Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, both playing the Indian Wells Open as top seeds, have called for peace as war in Ukraine rages on.
The Russian invasion, backed by Belarus, prompted tennis officials to remove any mention of Medvedev and Sabalenka’s home countries from the tournament.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in the biggest assault on a European state since 1945. Russia calls the action a “special military operation”.
“My message is always the same: I want peace all over the world,” Medvedev told reporters on the eve of the ATP’s first round in the Southern California desert.
“I think all tennis players are going to say the same thing.”
Indeed, support for the Ukrainian people has poured in from the tennis community.
Former world No 1s Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray have pledged to support relief funds for children affected by the invasion.
Nearly 2 million people – mostly women and children – have now fled Ukraine.
Poland’s Iga Swiatek encouraged people to support humanitarian organizations and said she was proud that her country had taken in refugees.
She will wear a small ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag when she takes part in the tournament and hopes others will do the same.
“If other players feel able to support Ukraine with this symbolic gesture, we have prepared more of these ribbons and can give you some,” she wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
Sabalenka, whose home country served as a base for the Russian invasion, told reporters she would be willing to wear the Ukrainian ribbon.
“I feel really sad and really bad for Ukrainian citizens who lost their homes in the war,” said Sabalenka, who like Medvedev is the tournament’s top seed.
“I’m really worried about it but unfortunately it’s not in my control.
“I just hope for peace.”
While Russian and Belarus players will not be identified by their nation’s symbols, Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, who fled violence with her younger sister, walked out on Wednesday night for her first round match draped in the blue and yellow flag from his country.
Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles, has pledged to donate her prize money for reaching the Lyon Open final last weekend to Ukrainian aid efforts.