Ukrainian Elina Svitolina to play match with Russian opponent after receiving assurances

Svitolina had said she would not play against any Russian or Belarusian opponents unless all signs of nationality were removed

Elina Svitolina will wear Ukrainian colours while her Russian opponent competes under a neutral flag (Simon Cooper/PA)
Elina Svitolina will wear Ukrainian colours while her Russian opponent competes under a neutral flag (Simon Cooper/PA)

Elina Svitolina is set to contest her first-round match in Mexico later on Tuesday having been assured Russian opponent Anastasia Potapova will compete under a neutral flag.

Svitolina, the top seed in Monterrey, put out a statement on Monday saying she would not play against any Russian or Belarusian opponents unless all national emblems, flags and colours were removed.

There has been no official announcement from the WTA, but Svitolina told ITV News: “There’s been a lot of discussion.

“Today they will release a statement that they will remove the flags. So we are waiting just for the final confirmation about that. I will be playing tonight because my opponent is going to be under a neutral flag.”

Svitolina added that she took her stance because she felt tennis’ governing bodies were not doing enough to support Ukraine and sanction Russia and Belarus.

“In the tennis community, more should have been done,” she said. “Today is already six days that serious and horrible things are happening in Ukraine.

“That’s why I decided to make a move because I didn’t feel enough support from our tennis community. As Ukrainians, we couldn’t sit silent anymore in feeling so much pain.”

Twenty-year-old Potapova put out her own response on Instagram on Monday, saying: “Unfortunately, now we, professional athletes, are becoming hostages of the current situation.

“I’m sorry, but even though I am a stranger to politics, I am against grief, tears and war.”

Svitolina will wear Ukrainian colours for the match, and she said: “For sure it’s not going to be (just) another WTA match. I feel like I have my country on my shoulders.”

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