Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina does not agree with the US Open decision to allow players from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals and hoped the Grand Slam organisers would take a firmer stand following Moscow’s invasion of her country.
Russian and Belarusian players are banned from competing at Wimbledon, which starts on June 27, but the United States Tennis Association allowed them to play under a neutral flag at the hardcourt major in New York.
“It’s their decision to make, they decided to take this path. I don’t support it because I feel like they should have taken more serious action,” the former world number three told Reuters from Geneva.
“Our (Ukraine’s) sports is thrown back by 10 years minimum because all the infrastructure has been damaged or completely destroyed. I can tell you many, many factors that can play a role in the decision of not letting Russian and Belarusian players compete.”
Russian and Belarusian players, who also participated at the French Open, are banned from team events but are allowed to compete as neutrals on the men’s and women’s tours.
The 27-year-old Svitolina pledged to donate her prize money from tournaments to the Ukrainian army before pulling out of the tour after losing in the second round of the Miami Masters in March.
Last week she joined former Ukraine, Chelsea and AC Milan footballer Andriy Shevchenko as an ambassador for ‘UNITED24’ – a charity platform launched by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to collect donations.
Born in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Svitolina expected more support from the governing bodies of tennis and was completely against the policy of allowing players from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals.
The silence from her fellow players from Russia and Belarus was also surprising.
“For us it was not really understandable why we didn’t get support from them. I feel like it created tension between us,” Svitolina said during the video interview. Svitolina thanked world number one Iga Swiatek for her French Open victory speech when the Pole urged Ukraine to “stay strong” and reminded everyone that the war was still ongoing.