Ukrainian gets WTA reply as chief said ‘not to be upset’ by Russians

Lesia Tsurenko has received a response after claiming that the CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association told her “not to be upset” when Russian and Belarusian players expressed support for the war. The world No 95 pulled out of her Indian Wells meeting with Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka after the conversation led her to have a panic attack. And the WTA has now issued a statement on the matter.

Tsurenko came out to discuss a “shocking” conversation with WTA CEO and Chairman Steve Simon on Sunday. It came after the Ukrainian star pulled out of her Indian Wells third-round clash against Sabalenka with moments to go, as she revealed she had a panic attack induced by the stress of her chat with Simon.

“I was absolutely shocked by what I heard, I just broke down mentally,” the four-time title winner told Great Tennis Ukraine. “He told me that he himself does not support the war, but if the players from Russia and Belarus support it, then this is only their own opinion, and the opinion of other people should not upset me.”

As well as claiming she was told not to be “upset” by Russians supporting the war, Tsurenko said the WTA chief also supported Russian and Belarusian athletes playing in the Olympics. And the WTA has since issued a response, condemning the Russian government over the war in Ukraine.

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“First and foremost, we acknowledge the emotions Lesia and all of our Ukrainian athletes have and continue to manage during this very difficult period of time,” the women’s tennis body wrote, per the Tennis Podcast. “We are witnessing an ongoing horrific war that continues to bring unforeseen circumstances with far reaching consequences that are affecting the world, as well as the global WTA Tour and its members.”

Voicing support for Ukraine, the statement continued: “The WTA has consistently reflected our full support for Ukraine and strongly condemn the actions that have been brought forth by the Russian Government.”

But the women’s tour also said they would not punish their Russian and Belarusian athletes based on the actions of their governments. “With this, a fundamental principle of the WTA remains, which is ensuring that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination, and not penalized due to the decisions made by the leadership of their country,” the WTA added.

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Tsurenko had also shared the toll her conversation with Simon took, adding: “I was completely shocked by this conversation and already in the last game it was incredibly difficult to play.

“It was difficult to gather myself and today, when it was time to go to the court, I had a panic attack and I just couldn’t go out there. I really hope that I will be able to digest all this information and be more ready for the next tournament.”

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