sport news 'It is not fair play': Elina Svitolina condemns decision to allow Russian ... trends now
The country’s best tennis player of this century to date will best remember visiting her beloved grandmother, who lives on the thirteenth floor of an apartment block in her native Odesa.
It was what she found there which most sharply reminded her of the everyday toll that the invasion is taking, and reaffirmed her belief that tennis – including Wimbledon – cannot separate politics and sport when it comes to this war.
‘While it was heart-warming in many ways to be back it was also sad to see Odesa how it is now,’ says Svitolina, the 28 year-old former world number three, who will return to the circuit next month in Charleston after giving birth to her first child.
‘It’s difficult for my grandmother to ever go out because the lift does not work where she lives. This is what it’s like. Odesa is a lovely place where people used to go on holiday, it is a very chilled vibe normally but now it is very sad.
Elina Svitolina returned to Ukraine last month and saw the effect the war has had on her home
Svitolina hasn't played a match since losing to Heather Watson at the 2022 Miami Open
‘There are a lot of military on the streets and 95% of the place is without lights. Only sometimes there is heat and it was incredibly difficult for people at the height of the winter when it has been minus five or minus ten.’
Svitolina knows that, among her compatriots, she is very fortunate. She is married to charismatic French star Gael Monfils and has spent much of the last year at their Monaco base, raising money and sending it back home.
She gave birth to their daughter Skai last October, and is now focussing on being back this summer at Wimbledon, where she made the semi-finals in 2019. She dreams of playing on the Centre Court again, but does not believe that players from Russia and Belarus should be there with her.
That now appears most likely to be the case as British tennis comes under threat of more sanctions from the two tours, who are deeply opposed to individual suspensions.
‘It’s not supposed to be like this in my opinion, what Wimbledon did last year (banning players from Russia and Belarus) was the right decision. If that has been changed this year it’s very sad because the war is still terrible, the Russian army is still killing a lot of innocent people. It is not fair play.’
Svitolina, one of the world’s most consistent top ten players of the past decade, spent some of her formative