WTA

Swiatek: More should be done to help Ukrainian players

By Sports Desk March 15, 2023

Iga Swiatek has called for more to be done to help Ukrainian players following Lesia Tsurenko's withdrawal from the Indian Wells Open due to a panic attack.

Ukrainian Tsurenko had been due to face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the third round on Sunday, only to pull out for what had initially been put down to "personal reasons".

She later revealed her decision was down to a panic attack triggered by a chat with WTA chief executive Steve Simon about tennis's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Swiatek offered her full support to Tsurenko and wants more focus to be on Ukrainian players during a hugely challenging period, rather than on Russian and Belarusian players.

"I totally understand why she withdrew. I respect Ukrainian girls so much," said the world number one, speaking after her 6-3 6-1 win over Emma Raducanu in the last 16 on Tuesday.

"If a bomb landed in my country or if my home was destroyed, I don't know if I could handle that and compete.

"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. Everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusians and Russians, if they should be allowed, what's going on with them.

"I don't think that's right. We should focus more on helping Ukrainian players and providing them with everything they need.

"They basically have to take care of all their families, and there's a lot of baggage on their shoulders."

Swiatek, who wears a Ukrainian flag on her cap, called out Anastasia Potapova earlier this week after she wore a Russian football shirt on court at Indian wells.

Potapova, allowed to compete in events as a neutral athlete, sported a Spartak Moscow jersey ahead of her 6-3 4-6 5-7 defeat to Jessica Pegula on Monday.

"To be honest, I was surprised," Swiatek 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."

Top seed Swiatek believes the situation could have been avoided had the WTA set out clear guidelines regarding the highly charged political situation.

"It's a tough situation. It's pretty emotional as I feel like these situations with people wearing Russian football shirts because we didn't have proper leadership," Swiatek said.

"There is a lot of tension in the locker room that is obviously going to be there, because there is a war. 

"But maybe there would have been a little bit less [tension] if WTA put some action in place at the beginning to kind of explain to everybody what is right and what is not."

Swiatek resumes her Indian Wells title defence against Sorana Cirstea in the quarter-finals on Thursday.

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