Iga Swiatek wants more support for Ukrainian players as she admits there is ‘tension’ in the locker room
Iga Swiatek believes “more should be done to help Ukrainian players” following the invasion of their country by Russia, saying “everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusian and Russian players”.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine started in February last year with Belarus providing support to Moscow. Although some sporting bodies opted to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in tournaments, tennis took a different stance as they can compete under a neutral flag with the anthems and flags of the two countries banned.
The All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association then decided to ban players from the two nations from competing at all grass-court events in the United Kingdom – including Wimbledon – only for the ATP and WTA to retaliate by stripping the grass-court major of ranking points.
There have been indications that the ban will be overturned this year with Russian and Belarusian athletes reportedly also set to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The matter hit the headlines again this week when Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko withdrew from her Indian Wells Open match against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka following talks with WTA CEO Steve Simon.
Tsurenko revealed she suffered a “panic attack” following some of Simon’s comments.
Swiatek, who has been keen to offer her support to Ukrainian players the past 12 months, feels more support should be given to Ukrainian players.
“I totally understand why she withdrew, because honestly I respect Ukrainian girls so much. If a bomb landed in my country or if my home was destroyed, I don’t know if I could handle that and compete,” Swiatek said.
“You have to really mentally be there to compete every week. So I get that she wasn’t ready to do that.
“I feel more should be done to help Ukrainian players because everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusian and Russian players, if they should be allowed, what’s going on with them.
“I don’t think that’s right, because we should focus more on helping Ukrainian players and providing them everything they need because they basically have to take care of all their families, and there’s a lot of baggage on their shoulders.”
There was another contentious moment at the Indian Wells Open this week as Anastasia Potapova wore the jersey of Russian football team Spartak Moscow before her match against Jessica Pegula.
Swiatek feels the WTA should take more responsibility and provide proper guidelines.
“At the beginning we didn’t have proper leadership to guide us through all of that,” she said. “There’s a lot of tension in the locker room that obviously is going to be there because there’s a war.
“But maybe it should be a little bit less if WTA put some action at the beginning to explain to everybody what’s right and what’s not.”
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