Since Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the help of Belarus in February 2022, Russian and Belarusian players have been participating on both the ATP and WTA tournaments under a neutral banner.
Lesia Tsurenko, a Ukrainian tennis player, claims her and her teammates’ only option is to beat their Russian and Belarussian opponents “on any field,” since she is resigned to sports bodies not taking harder action. Since Vladimir Putin began Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the help of Belarus in February 2022, Russian and Belarusian players have been participating on both the ATP and WTA tournaments under a neutral banner.
Tsurenko, 33, told AFP in an interview that she is under “a lot of stress” as she awaits her draw for the French Open, which begins on Sunday.
She did, however, strike a rebellious tone.
“My message for the French Open is the same as I said about other sports: we just have to go and beat them on any pitch,” she remarked.
“It makes no sense for Ukrainian athletes to give up. What message does that send?
“We tried everything to ban them in tennis, but the tennis organisations refused to listen to us.”
Tsurenko is disturbed by the lack of support she and her fellow Ukrainians have gotten from Russian and Belarussian adversaries, even though some “used to be very good friends.”
“On the first day of the war, only one person spoke directly to me,” she explained.”That person told me, with tears in their eyes, that everything is so terrible.””No more players approach me now.” I have no sympathy for any of them. I can only reply that if they suffer, we suffer even more.”There are several ways you may assist in these circumstances. If you are scared, you can change citizenship or relocate your family.”I honestly believe they are afraid to speak out because those who support the war will be exposed.”- ‘Using my name’ – In April, Tsurenko, who was ranked 63 in the world after reaching a career high of 23, suffered a well-publicized panic episode, forcing her to withdraw from a match against Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus in the third round of the Indian Wells event.Tsurenko said the panic episode was the result of a “unpleasant conversation” with WTA CEO Steve Simon.”I was astounded when Steve Simon told us a year ago that any player who showed support for the war would be banned.””After a year, he changes his mind and says, ‘It’s okay to support the war.'””It shocked me so much that it just blew my mind.”Tsurenko claims she was able to win her second round match but regarded herself as a propaganda instrument if she faced Sabalenka.”I just imagined that if I played that match on centre court, people like Simon would say at a sports executives meeting, ‘you know they played against each other and it’s okay.'””He would be using my name in ways that I do not want it to be used.”Tsurenko, whose highest Grand Slam result was a quarterfinal appearance at the 2018 US Open, claims that “Russians believe they are owed something.””She tells me she feels like a zombie,” Tsurenko stated.”She is woken up every night and must go to a safe place.”Tsurenko, on the other hand, is resolved to return to the capital city someday.”My first love is Kyiv.” That is my hometown and the location I adore.”