Ukraine news: Elina Svitolina refuses to face opponents under Russian flag

Elina Svitolina pleased

Ukrainian World No 15 Elina Svitolina is prepared to pull out of her match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in the Monterrey Open if tennis’ governing bodies do not follow the recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee regarding competitors from Russia.

The IOC’s executive asserted on Friday that Russian and Belarusian national flags should not be displayed at international sports events following invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces.

On Monday, the IOC’s executive board went further and recommended sports federations to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing in all sporting events under the Olympic banner.

Svitolina has not outright refused to play Potapova but insists that the Russian flag not be flown in any form and that the Russian anthem is not played before or after the match.

“We Ukrainian players requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems,” Svitolina said.

“Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organisations take this necessary decision.”

A group of Ukrainian women’s tennis players including Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko have also called on the WTA to pull all tournaments from Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

“We Ukrainian tennis players would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response with the situation with our motherland,” the statement said.

“It is especially strange that in prior cases of social injustice and sexual harassment the response of WTA was prompt, appropriate and bold.

“We demand that WTA immediately condemn Russian government, pull all tournaments out of Russia and approach ITF to do the same. Stop the war. Stop Russian aggression. Bring peace to our homes. Be human.”

The Ukrainian Tennis Federation urged the sport’s governing body the International Tennis Federation (ITF), to immediately expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation.