Elina Svitolina: Russia and Belarus players should not be competing at US Open

Ukrainian disappointed that US Grand Slam did not replicate Wimbledon's ban

Elina Svitolina said expected more support from the governing bodies of tennis over the decision to allow players from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals. EPA
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Ukraine's Elina Svitolina has said that the US Open have made the wrong call in allowing Russia and Belarus players to compete at Flushing Meadows.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced on Tuesday that they would not be following Wimbledon's lead in banning players from both countries from taking part due to Russia's attack on Ukraine that started in February.

Players from the two nations will have to compete under a neutral flag at the final Grand Slam event of the season that starts at the end of August.

The decision means Russian men's world No 1 Daniil Medvedev can defend his title in New York.

“It's their decision to make, they decided to take this path. I don't support it because I feel like they should have taken more serious action,” Svitolina told Reuters on Saturday.

“Our [Ukraine's] sports is thrown back by 10 years minimum because all the infrastructure has been damaged or completely destroyed. I can tell you many, many factors that can play a role in the decision of not letting Russian and Belarusian players compete.”

Russian and Belarusian players, who also participated at the French Open, are banned from team events but are allowed to compete as neutrals on the men's and women's tours.

The 27-year-old Svitolina pledged to donate her prize money from tournaments to the Ukrainian army before pulling out of the tour after losing in the second round of the Miami Masters in March.

Born in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Svitolina expected more support from the governing bodies of tennis and was completely against the policy of allowing players from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals.

The silence from her fellow players from Russia and Belarus was also surprising.

Russia's Daniil Medvedev will be allowed to defend his title at this year's US Open. AP

“For us it was not really understandable why we didn't get support from them. I feel like it created tension between us,” Svitolina said.

On February 24, Russia launched the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

A few days earlier, Svitolina, who is married to French tennis player Gael Monfils, found out the couple were expecting a baby in October.

“I was extremely excited about the news. And then a few days later the war started,” she said. “It was lot of stress, we were really worried.

“I was actually more worried about the war than about myself. I don't even remember what happened during the first few days. It was unbearable.

“The priorities changed, the vision of life changed,” she added. “It's not that I didn't cherish the family time with my parents before but now I really enjoy spending time with them.

“They got a chance to leave Ukraine and they are in Europe right now. A lot of things changed inside, mentally. A war really changes people.”

Updated: June 18, 2022, 1:29 PM