Elina Svitolina: Ukrainian tennis star says Russia invasion ‘has been the worst time of my life’

The 27-year-old, who was in Monterrey, Mexico, for a tournament, said Sunday that she was terrified for her family who remained in Mexico. A country wracked by warThey took refuge in the southern city of Odessa.

“I haven’t slept much, and I’m trying to see what’s going on, how we can help and what we can do,” she told CNN Sport.

“This was the worst time of my life because I have my parents, my Ukrainian friends and people fighting there for our country. It was a very difficult time for everyone.”

Svitolina’s concern heightened fears that Odessa might be targeted by Russian forces.

“We are really concerned because this segment is very attractive to Russia,” she added. “It’s by the Black Sea, it has a port and we heard it could be in great danger.”

FIFA described the Russian national team's plan to play international football matches as

The currently ranked No. 15 in the world spoke of her respect for the way her country and people have responded to the crisis, both those trying to leave Ukraine and those who have decided to stay there.

“There are very brave people remaining, as well as very brave people who are moving in or trying to move to a safe place,” she said.

“I admire the people who decided not only to stay there, but also take up arms in their hands. Girls and guys are fighting for our country every minute of the day.”

Svitolina also praised the government and political leaders of Ukraine for the way they handled the situation, particularly Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“I’m so proud of Zelensky, he’s done an incredible job so far,” she said. “He had the opportunity to leave the country, but he decided to stay. And that takes a lot of courage.”

“I think it’s an incredible statement to all of the people so I’m really proud of our president.”

call for change

Svitolina wants the sports world to reconsider its impact and in particular what governing bodies can do in light of the conflict.

After a CNN interview with Svitolina, she said she will not play her next game at the Monterrey Open because she refuses to play any Russian or Belarusian players unless they compete as neutral athletes. Svitolina was scheduled to meet Russia’s Anastasia Potapova in the opening round on Tuesday.

On Monday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes be banned from competing in international sporting events, while Russia’s national football teams and club teams were suspended from competing until further notice by FIFA. The governing body for European football is UEFA.

Svitolina urged tennis governing bodies to do the same.

“I think the current situation requires a clear position from our organizations: the ATP, the WTA, and the International Tennis Federation,” Svitolina said, referring to the ATP, the WTA and the International Tennis Federation, who wrote in Social media after Monday.

“As such, we – the Ukrainian players – have asked the ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee to accept only Russian or Belarusian nationals as neutral players, without displaying any symbols, colors, flags or national anthems.”

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has said it strongly opposes the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russian athletes from participating in all international sporting events.

A statement issued on the Republic of China website on Monday said the decision “contradicts the regulatory documents of the International Olympic Committee and [Olympic] charter […] and the ethos of the Olympic movement designed to unite, not divide, especially when it comes to athletes and equality among those involved in the Olympic movement.”

Potapova, Svitolina’s intended opponent, said she was “against sorrow, tears, and war” in Instagram after Monday.

CNN reached out to the ITF, ATP and WTA regarding Svitolina’s comments but did not receive an immediate response.

Elina Svitolina says the athletes can do more to pressure Russia to stop the violence.

We can unite and make a difference

“I think it’s very important for all the athletes to come together and stand together. I think we have a great community,” Svitolina said.

“We can come together and make a difference to show people what’s really going on because I think there are still a lot of people who don’t really understand that we are in great danger and that we are fighting for peace.

“I think this is a real cross of what’s going on and how many people are dying, how many children are dying, how many women are dying,” she said.

“For me, the Russian government should stop what it’s doing now.”

The Ukrainian star also paid tribute to fellow Russian tennis player Andrei Rublev, who has spoken out against the conflict through writing. “No to war” On camera after winning the semi-final match at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Friday.

However, Svitolina says athletes of all nationalities can do more to challenge the fight.

“I’ve seen him [Rublev’s] Very good moves, but I think we can make a much bigger and bigger impact on that.”

“I am trying to invite all the tennis community to support us. It doesn’t matter what country you are from, but I think we have to stand together.”

Svitolina had a message about how NATO, Ukraine’s allies around the world, and the wider public can help Ukraine – to donate to the country’s military operation while they continue to defend their nation.

“Try to donate money to our army, to the Ukrainian army which is now fighting and losing a lot of soldiers, and innocent people as well,” she said.

“For me, it is important to share the message that people need to stand with Ukraine and help these innocent people, who were once at peace but now face the most powerful army in the world.”

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