Svitolina wants assurances there are no ‘bad’ Russians
Elina Svitolina claims Russian and Belarusian players must speak out against the conflict in Ukraine to prove that there are “no bad people among us” on the world tennis circuit.
The Ukrainian former world number three has been vocal in her calls for Russian players to publicly denounce their nation’s leadership before being granted the right to appear at tournaments.
The 27-year-old, who announced she was taking a break at the end of March following a “mentally and physically” difficult period, reiterated her stance in an AP interview this week.
“For us, for Ukrainians, it’s very important that they [Russian and Belarusian players] speak out, that they choose which side they take. We want to know, we want to feel safe about that,” said Svitolina.
“Because if they don’t say their opinion on this, we don’t know if they support their government, if they support the action of the army.”
The current world number 27 claimed that “sport is a big propaganda” in Russia and Belarus – a view which has been shared by Wimbledon organizers as part of their justification for banning players from the two countries from this year’s tournament.
“I feel like they need to speak up about their position, this is very important. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a Grand Slam or [another] tournament,” added Svitolina.
“I think every Russian and Belarusian athlete should take their position, so that we know that there is no bad people among us.”
Russian and Belarusian players are free to compete on the ATP and WTA tours under neutral status, although Svitolina has previously issued demands that they answer three questions confirming they do not support their respective governments before being cleared to compete.
Russian stars such as top-10 men’s duo Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev have issued calls for peace since the conflict began, as has women’s former French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
But Svitolina claims “very few” Russian and Belarusian players have told her personally that they are against the conflict.
Svitolina, who hails from Odessa and is married to French tennis ace Gael Monfils, said the situation has been “mentally draining” for her.
She told Inside the Games this week that she would be withdrawing from the upcoming French Open but would be there to support her husband.
In contrast to Wimbledon, organizers at Roland-Garros are allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals – in line with ITF, ATP and WTA rules.
Reports have indicated that Wimbledon is set to be punished for its controversial decision to bar players such as Russian ace Medvedev and Belarusian women’s star Aryna Sabalenka, with the tournament potentially being stripped of its rankings points by the ATP and WTA.
The likes of men’s icons Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have questioned the decision to prohibit Russian and Belarusian players from the grass court showpiece.