Ukrainian tennis ace Svitolina agrees to play Russian Potapova in shock U-turn with rival competing under neutral flag

UKRAINIAN tennis star Elina Svitolina has reversed her boycott and WILL play Russia's Anastasia Potapova on Tuesday evening.

Monterrey Open top seed Svitolina initially refused – due to Russia invading Ukraine – but will now participate in Ukrainian colours, with her opponent competing under a neutral flag.

World No15 Svitolina had urged tennis chiefs to follow International Olympic Committee chiefs, who want sports federations to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing.

But after eventually agreeing to play the last-32 match in Mexico, she said: "I'm going to play in the Ukrainian national colours because normally we are playing at the Olympics and for our national team in Ukrainian colours.

"Today I'm going to wear Ukrainian colours and for me this means a lot – it's going to be a special night for me."

Svitolina, the 2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist, has already stressed she does not blame Russian athletes for Vladimir Putin's aggression.

Before her change of mind about playing, the 27-year-old wrote on Instagram: "Dear all, I believe the current situation requires a clear position from our organisations: ATP, WTA and ITF.

"As such we – Ukrainian players – requested to ATP, WTA and ITF to follow the recommendations of the IOC to accept Russian or Belarusian nationals only as neutral athletes, without displaying any national symbols, colours, flags or anthems.

"Accordingly, I want to announce that I will not play tomorrow in Monterrey, nor any other match against Russian or Belarusian tennis players until our organisations take this necessary decision.

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"I do not blame any of the Russian athletes. They are not responsible for the invasion of our motherland.

"Moreover, I wish to pay tribute to all the players, especially Russians and Belarusians, who bravely stated their position against the war.

"Their support is essential."

The WTA had yet to respond to Svitolina by the time she reversed her decision.

Meanwhile, Potapova released her own statement to hit out at her nation's government, including Putin sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine, – and the consequence it is having on innocent athletes' careers.

The 20-year-old said: “As a rule, even in childhood we choose our own path of development.

"Even when I was a kid, I dreamed of playing tennis without choosing a match, a country or a partner in the game.

"It is difficult to explain to people from politics that for me there is no opponent from any country, I am fighting for victory, my best game, for my result.

We professional athletes are essentially becoming hostages of the current situation

"Unfortunately, now we, professional athletes, are essentially becoming hostages of the current situation.

"Playing tennis is our choice and our dream, to which we go daily, practising, and constantly trying to be better in our results.

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

"The peace unites the world, and everyone should remain human in it. And children should continue to dream.”

Russian star Daniil Medvedev spoke diplomatically after becoming the first man outside of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to be named world No1 since 2004.

He wrote on Twitter: "It’s a huge honour to take over this spot.

"I’m sure everyone can understand it comes with mixed emotions that it happens this week.

"Thank you to my wife, team, sponsors, friends, & everyone that has helped along the way.

"It’s a long journey and I look forward to the years ahead."


Olympic chiefs finally stood up for the people of Ukraine on Monday by urging sporting sanctions against Russia and Belarus.

The International Olympic Committee said: “The IOC recommends that International Sports Federations and event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions."

Fifa and Uefa eventually banned Russian football teams from competing in their tournaments which saw Spartak Moscow booted out of the Europa League and Russia's national side from their World Cup play-offs.

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