World No.1 Iga Swiatek has 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.”
Świątek’s comments on Tuesday follow incidents at the Indian Wells tournament, where Russia’s Anastasia Potapova wore a Spartak Moscow soccer jersey, and Ukrainian player Lesia Tsurenko pulled out of the tournament this week.
Tsurenko had been due to play against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka but did not end up taking to the court Monday, with Reuters news agency reports that organizers said that the Ukrainian had withdrawn for personal reasons.
When asked about Tsurenko at her post-match press conference, the 21-year-old Polish star Świątek said: “I totally understand why she withdrew, because honestly I respect the Ukrainian girls so much, because like if a bomb landed in my country or if my home was destroyed, I don’t know if I could handle that.”
As of March 12, at least 8,231 civilians have been killed and 13,734 injured in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began 24 February last year, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
OHCHR says it believes that the actual figures are “considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going on has been delayed and many reports are still pending corroboration.”
“I feel more should be done to help Ukrainian players because everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusian and Russian players,” Świątek said Tuesday.
Świątek was also critical of the WTA’s leadership after Russian Potapova entered the court Sunday wearing a Spartak Moscow soccer shirt ahead of her match against American Jessica Pegula. Potopova has been pictured wearing the shirt on several occasions, including in Dubai, in a photo she posted to her own Instagram account.
“It’s a tough situation,” Świątek said. “There is a lot of tension in the locker room that, well, obviously it’s going to be there, because there is a war.
“But maybe it should 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,” added Świątek.
CNN reached out to the WTA for comment following Świątek’s criticism.
Earlier on Tuesday when asked about Tsurenko’s withdrawal the WTA said to CNN: “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 penalized due to the decisions made by the leadership of their country,” the WTA statement added.
Three-time grand slam winner Świątek continued her impressive form on Wednesday, reaching the quarterfinals at Indian Wells after defeating Emma Raducanu 6-3 6-1.
On Tuesday, Świątek beat 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in straight sets.