Ukrainian tennis player and world number 49 Marta Kostyuk calls on the WTA to withdraw all tournaments from Russia. Speaking on behalf of Ukrainian tennis players, she expressed “surprise and displeasure” at the WTA’s initial lack of response.
“It is particularly odd that in past cases of social injustice and sexual harassment, the WTA’s response has been swift, appropriate and bold,” she wrote.
Last year, the WTA pulled all tournaments from China following allegations of sexual assault by Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. Peng has since retired from professional tennis and has backtracked on her allegations. The WTA expressed concern for his well-being and called for there to be an independent investigation into the allegations.
“Our country Ukraine is under brutal attack by a superior nuclear power,” Kostyuk wrote. “Bombs and rockets are hitting our homes, killing our people, destroying our lives.”
“We demand that the WTA immediately condemns the Russian government, withdraws all tournaments from Russia and asks ITD to do the same,” she continued. “Having said that, we fully support our Russian colleagues and all Russian-speaking tennis players, as we understand that the unprovoked attacks happened without their knowledge and participation.”
World number 15 Elina Svitolina echoed those sentiments, issuing a statement urging international tennis bodies – ATP, WTA and ITF – to follow the IOC’s recommendations.
The IOC has encouraged the sport’s governing bodies to allow only Russian or Belarusian participation as neutral athletes “without displaying national symbols, colors, flags or anthems”.
The ITF has canceled events in Russia “indefinitely” with no events scheduled in Belarus this year. An April event scheduled for Ukraine was also postponed, citing “heightened security concerns”.
“It’s a rapidly changing situation. We are continuously monitoring events and remain in active discussion with the ITF tennis family, the ITF Board and security experts to decide and align on our next course of action. We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” the ITF said in a statement released on Monday. “At this time, our priority remains the safety of everyone who attends our events. Of course, we will give you more information as soon as possible. »
After saying on Monday that she would not be competing in an upcoming WTA event in Mexico, Svitolina has since said she will play her Tuesday match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova. Part of the reason, she says, is that the WTA will issue a statement that Russian flags will be removed.
“I’m going to play tonight because my opponent is going to be neutral,” she said. told ITV News. “In the tennis community, more should have been done. Today, it has already been six days that serious and horrible things are happening in Ukraine.
“That’s why I decided to move on because I didn’t feel enough support from our tennis community. As Ukrainians, we couldn’t stay silent anymore feeling so much pain.
On Instagram, Potapova sent a reply saying she “dreamed of playing tennis without choosing a match, country or partner in play.”
“Unfortunately, now we professional athletes are essentially becoming hostages to the current situation…I’m sorry, but even though I’m a stranger to politics, I’m against heartbreak, tears and war.”
Svitolina has also said that she does not blame any Russian athlete and hopes “to pay tribute to all the players, especially Russians and Belarusians, who have courageously asserted their position against the war”.
Many other international federations have taken a stand, banning competition for Russian and Belarusian athletes. FIFA has suspended Russia from competition, which could prevent it from participating in the 2023 World Cup. The International Skating Union has also banned athletes from competing, including the upcoming world championships.