Iga Swiatek has called for more support for Ukrainian players on the WTA Tour and says there is “a lot of tension” in the locker room at the moment.
The WTA said in a statement: “First and foremost, we acknowledge the emotions Lesia and all of our Ukrainian athletes have and continue to manage during this very difficult period of time. We are witnessing an ongoing horrific war that continues to bring unforeseen circumstances with far reaching consequences that are affecting the world, as well as the global WTA Tour and its members.
“The WTA has consistently reflected our full support for Ukraine and strongly condemn the actions that have been brought forth by the Russian government. With this, a fundamental principle of the WTA remains, which is ensuring that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination, and not penalised due to the decisions made by the leadership of their country.”
“Obviously, it’s going to be there because there is a war. But maybe it would be a little bit less if the WTA put some action at the beginning to kind of explain to everybody what is right and what is not.
“I totally understand why she [Tsurenko] withdrew. I respect the Ukrainian girls so much because if a bomb landed in my country or if my home was destroyed, I don’t know if I could handle that.
“I feel there should be done a little bit more to help Ukrainian players because I feel like everything we discuss in tennis is more about Belarusian and Russian players and if they should be allowed.
“I don’t think that’s right because we should focus more on helping Ukrainian players and providing them everything that they need. They basically have to take care of like all their families, and there’s a lot of baggage on their shoulders.”
Swiatek, who wears a Ukrainian flag on her cap during matches, was also critical of Russian player Anastasia Potapova for wearing a Spartak Moscow football shirt ahead of her loss to Jessica Pegula at Indian Wells.
“To be honest, I was surprised,” she said.
“I thought the player realised that she should not, even if she is a fan of the team, show her views in this way at such times.
“I’ve talked to the WTA, and in a way I found out that there should be less such situations because they will explain to other players that you can’t promote any Russian teams these days, which reassured me a bit.
“On the other hand, I think these situations unfortunately happen because this announcement should have taken place much earlier. There was a lot of chaos in the locker room at the beginning of the war.
“It was not clear how to approach everything, which causes such unpleasant situations. I think if there had been better leadership from the beginning, maybe we would have avoided such situations.”
Former Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov has praised Swiatek’s decision to speak up about Potapova.
“It’s no doubt Iga Swiatek understands all the nonsense that’s going on around and shows empathy and [a] huge example for others.
“Considering it’s in the moment, she is super busy and #1, means there is giant [heart emoji]. Ukrainians feel this support and thank you.”
Swiatek plays Sorana Cirstea in the quarter-finals of Indian Wells.
The world No. 1 is bidding to become the first repeat WTA champion at Indian Wells since Martina Navratilova in 1991.
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