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Elina Svitolina beat Martina Trevisan in the French Open first round on Tuesday, before rounding on the “empty words” being spoken in the sport about the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
Since last year’s attack on the eastern European nation, a succession of sports stars from Ukraine have attempted to keep raising awareness and support for their home country, but Svitolina wants more than just talk.
“What I found is a lot, I don’t know in a nicer way to say, but a lot of rubbish is happening around the situation where we have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” Svitolina said after her 6-2 6-2 win.
“A lot of Ukrainian people need help and support and we are focusing on so many things, like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation.”
Another Ukrainian player, Marta Kostyuk, was booed following her first round loss to Aryna Sabalenka after refusing to shake hands with the Belarusian, before suggesting her victorious opponent should feel a duty to speak up due to her status as a top-ranked player. Kostyuk later added that those in the crowd who jeered her should feel embarrassed about their actions.
Belarus has served as a staging ground for Russian troops in the war, and while Russian and Belarusian players continue to compete on the tour, they are at Roland Garros as neutral athletes.
“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands,” added Svitolina. “We are missing the main point that people at this time need help as never before. The kids are losing their parents, they are losing parts of their bodies.
“We are missing the main point and talking, talking, talking about nothing. Well, here, empty, completely empty words. Not helping.”
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