World No. 1 Iga Svitek called for more support for Ukrainian players from the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), adding that “everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusian and Russian players.”
Swietek’s comments on Tuesday followed events at the Indian Wells tournament, where Russia’s Anastasia Potapova wore a Spartak Moscow soccer jersey and Ukrainian player Lesia Surenko withdrew from the tournament this week.
Tsurenko was scheduled to play against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka but did not end up on court on Monday, Reuters news agency reported, with organizers saying the Ukrainian had withdrawn for personal reasons.
Asked about Surenko in the post-match press conference, 21-year-old Polish star Świątek said: “I completely understand why she left, because frankly I respect Ukrainian girls a lot, because if a bomb landed in my country. Or If my house was destroyed, I don’t know if I could handle it.”
According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 8,231 civilians were killed and 13,734 injured in Russia’s offensive in Ukraine from February 24 last year to March 12.
OHCHR said it believed the actual figures were “significantly higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities are ongoing has been delayed and many reports are still pending.”
“I think more should be done to help Ukrainian players because everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusian and Russian players,” Shuatek said Tuesday.
Wietek also criticized the WTA’s leadership after Russian Potapova entered the court wearing a Spartak Moscow soccer shirt on Sunday ahead of her match against American Jessica Pegula. Potopova was pictured wearing the shirt at several events, including in Dubai, in a photo posted on her own Instagram account.
“It’s a difficult situation,” Schweitek said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the locker room that, well, obviously it’s going to be there, because there’s a battle.
“But maybe it should be a little less if the WTA takes some steps at the beginning to explain to everyone what’s right and what’s not,” Schuatek added.
CNN has reached out to the WTA for comment following Witech’s criticism.
Asked about Tsurenko’s withdrawal earlier on Tuesday, the WTA told CNN: “First and foremost, we recognize the emotions that Lesia and all our Ukrainian athletes have and continue to carry during this difficult time.
“We are witnessing an ongoing fierce war that is going to bring about unforeseen circumstances with far-reaching consequences affecting the world, as well as the Global WTA Tour and its members.
“WTA has consistently expressed our full support for Ukraine and strongly condemned the actions taken by the Russian government.
“With this, a fundamental principle of the WTA remains, which is ensuring that individual athletes can participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination and are not penalized because of the decisions of their country’s leadership.” Added WTA statement.
Three-time Grand Slam winner Swiatek continued his fine form on Wednesday, beating Emma Radukanu 6-3 6-1 to reach the quarter-finals in Indian Wells.
On Tuesday, Świątek defeated 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in straight sets.