Ukrainian tennis star has damning response after compatriot booed at French Open

Elina Svitolina slammed the tennis world for focusing on “rubbish” that she suggests is detracting from the Ukraine war. It comes after her compatriot Marta Kostyuk was booed for refusing to shake Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka’s hand. Svitolina is making her comeback from pregnancy and pledged to donate all of her prize money from winning last week’s Internationaux de Strasbourg.

Svitolina has been one of Ukraine’s top tennis stars, peaking at No 3 in the world and winning the WTA Finals in 2018. But the 29-year-old has been sidelined from tennis during her pregnancy for most of the duration of the war.

Even during her break from competition, the Odessa native has been raising money and awareness for her home nation. And after recording her first post-pregnancy match win at a Grand Slam, she had a damning statement for the rest of the tour.

A former quarter-finalist in Paris, Svitolina was asked for her thoughts on the issues Ukrainian players were facing on the tour – including the booing of Kostyuk on Sunday. “Well, what I found, that a lot of, 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, of a lot of people, Ukrainian people, need help and need support,” she said.

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The current world No 192 thought that too much time and energy had been given to the locker room spats between players from Ukraine and those from Russia and Belarus, adding: “We are focusing on so many, you know, things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.”

And she called on her colleagues to bring the attention back to the issue at hand – the war in Ukraine and helping those affected. “So right now my focus, and I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians,” she continued.

“That’s the main point of this, you know, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war and they are fighting for Ukraine. We are missing the main point that people now at this time, they need help as never before. The kids, you know, they’re losing their parents, they’re losing parts of their body.”

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Svitolina even offered suggestions as she slammed the tennis world for their empty words about tensions between players. “You know, there is so many things that we can do and help in different ways. You can donate couple of dollars might help and save live. Or donate your time to something to help people. You know, we are missing the main point of all of that and talking, talking, talking about nothing. Well, here, empty, completely empty words. Not helping,” she said.

The Ukrainian’s statement comes two days after she pledged to donate all of her prize money to children in her home country after winning her first post-pregnancy title in Strasbourg. And Svitolina explained how she tried to funnel her donations into the areas that needed them the most.

“After Strasbourg, yes, I’m donating this money to the kids of Ukraine. We will see what exact way it’s gonna go,” she explained. “Like, for example, we had a fund-raising event in States that was joined together with Lesia Tsurenko. We donated that money to the school that was in Kharkiv that was damaged completely, for the school for the kids who has disabilities, so to restore that school.

“And this prize money I will see what are the possibilities and what are the needs of the cities. Like, for example, in Odessa, my hometown, or in Kharkiv, or maybe in Kyiv, so we will see what are the needs, like urgent needs, and then I’ll donate this money there.”

Svitolina has also become a United24 ambassador since the war started and has her own foundation. Discussing her work, she added: “Also, with my foundation, we are doing some health programs, mental health programs for the kids. So partly maybe will go also to this. So there is, you know, there is paths that we might take but we will see what are the urgent needs right now.”

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