Turmoil continues in the world of tennis with the participation of Russian and Belarusian tennis players in major tournaments. Anastasia Potapova wore the Spartak Moscow jersey for the match against Jessica Pegula. Many perceived this as a provocation, especially since it was Potapova who, during the Australian Open, informed the referee that she was distracted by the Ukrainian flag in the stands.
The Russians still play in the stadiums
Meanwhile, Ukrainian tennis player Lesya Tsurenko claims that the head of women’s tennis, Steve Simon, told her that Ukrainian tennis players “shouldn’t get upset” if their rival supported Russia’s invasion of their country. In tennis, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete as neutral athletes and their national teams are suspended from team competitions. And Wimbledon was the only tournament last year that did not allow tennis players from these countries to compete.
The debate over whether England should lift their ban at the next tournament continues amid mounting pressure from both the WTA and ATP. Ukrainians argue that the ban should not be lifted because of the ongoing war that has claimed thousands of lives.
The WTA has not officially commented on the matter, but Korenko has spoken about her conversation with Simone. “I was completely shocked by what I heard. He told me that he himself did not support the war, but if players from Russia and Belarus supported it, then only their opinion and the opinion of others should not bother me. At the same time, he noted that if he were in my place, he would be horrified – he revealed Ukrainian tennis player in an interview with Ubitennis.net.
Ukrainians are outraged by the words of the WTA president. – I think that with such words, with such an attitude, it all begins. It’s as if he’s telling us, “It’s fine for you to fight, but we want money, attention, and opinions, though I’d feel pain in your place, too.” Because of this situation, there is no understanding of our position in the world of tennis and sometimes there is a lack of support – Ukrainian tennis journalist Mikita Peretyatko told us from the Btu.org.ua portal.
What about games?
Simon also admitted that he believes Russia and Belarus will be able to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. He said this would show that the rules of the Olympic Games still apply and that every athlete is treated as an equal.
– Simon expressed confidence that the Russians and Belarusians would return to the Olympic Games and said that it would happen exactly as it is happening now in tennis. He also said that there is no violation of the Olympic rules here, on the contrary. Tsurenko said when asked if he understood that he was telling me this during the active phase of Russia’s military aggression against my country, he replied that he did and that was his opinion.
The Ukrainian withdrew from the third round match of the tournament in Indian Wells with Belarusian Arina Sabalenka for “personal reasons”. She later reveals that she had a panic attack in the lead up to this meeting and was unable to play. I connected her to a conversation with the president of the WTA.
“This conversation completely shocked me. Already in the previous game [z Donną Vekic] It was very difficult for me to perform at the stadium, getting ready to leave the hotel. On the other hand, I wasn’t able to compete today because I had a panic attack before the match. Hopefully I can catch up and prepare better for the next tournament, Korenko said. Simon has not yet publicly commented on the tennis player’s words.
– I think that what happened is one of the strongest arguments for the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players from tennis competitions. I can’t imagine playing with someone who would probably want my nation to shut up and do what the fucking dictators tell us to do. I think such situations are absolutely unbearable for Ukrainian players whose families and friends are constantly in danger.
The WTA issued a statement regarding the Ukrainian tennis player’s statement. – We understand Lesya’s feelings and continue to support all Ukrainian athletes (…) However, the basic principles of the WTA say that individual athletes cannot be discriminated against or punished due to the decisions of the authorities of their countries – we read. A similar attitude has been maintained by the tennis authorities (ATP and ITF alike) since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Interestingly, the WTA did not deny that Simon expressed himself in these words in an interview with Curenko.
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