Ukraine's Svitolina refuses to play against Russia's Potapova

Elina Svitolina
Elina Svitolina in action during her second round match against Harmony Tan at the Australian Open. File photo: Reuters/Morgan Sette

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina said she would not play her round of 32 match against Russia's Anastasia Potapova in the Monterrey Open unless tennis' governing bodies followed the recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC's executive said on Friday that Russian and Belarusian national flags should not be displayed at international sports events following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On Monday, the IOC's executive board went further and recommended sports federations to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing in events, but Svitolina made her feelings known before the latest release.

"We Ukrainian players requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems," Svitolina said.

"Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organisations take this necessary decision."

In a separate but similar statement earlier on Monday, Ukrainian women's tennis players including Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko called on the WTA to pull all tournaments from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Athletes from Ukraine and other nations have urged international bodies to take action after Russia launched its invasion by land, air and sea last week following a declaration of war by President Vladimir Putin.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists.

"We Ukrainian tennis players would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response with the situation with our motherland," the statement said.

"It is especially strange that in prior cases of social injustice and sexual harassment the response of WTA was prompt, appropriate and bold.

"We demand that WTA immediately condemn Russian government, pull all tournaments out of Russia and approach ITF to do the same. Stop the war. Stop Russian aggression. Bring peace to our homes. Be human."

The WTA did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian Tennis Federation urged the sport's governing body the International Tennis Federation to immediately expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation and ban Russia from team and individual tournaments.

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