Ukraine's Svitolina says she'll withdraw from tournament rather than face Russian

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina celebrates a point against Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva during their third round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. (Hamish Blair / AP)

NEW YORK — Top-seeded Elina Svitolina, a 27-year-old professional tennis player from Ukraine, says she will withdraw from the Monterrey Open rather than face a Russian opponent at the Mexican tournament unless tennis’ governing bodies follow the International Olympic Committee’s lead and insist that players from Russia and Belarus are only identified as “neutral athletes.”

Svitolina wrote Monday on Twitter that she did not want to play her opening-round contest against Anastasia Potapova “nor any other match against Russian or Belarussian tennis players until” the WTA women’s tour, ATP men’s tour and International Tennis Federation “follow the recommendations of the IOC” and bar those countries’ competitors from using any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.

The Russian military assault on Ukraine was into its fifth day.

“I do not blame any of the Russian athletes,” Svitolina wrote. “They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.”

Svitolina is a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist with 16 career tour-level singles titles who has been ranked as high as No. 3 and is currently No. 15.

Another tennis player from Ukraine, 32-year-old Lesia Tsurenko, wrote on Twitter that she and others “would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response to the situation with our Motherland.”

Tsurenko, a quarterfinalist at the 2018 U.S. Open who’s been ranked as high as No. 23 and is No. 127 this week, called on the WTA to immediately condemn the Russian government.

The WTA, ATP and ITF did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

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