Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina will play match against Russian opponent in national kit

Tokyo 2020
Elina Svitolina wearing Ukrainian colours at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Credit: AP

Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina has confirmed she is now likely to go ahead with Tuesday night's match against the Russian Anastasia Potapova.

Svitolina had earlier signalled her intention to boycott the match at the Monterrey Open in a post on social media demanding the tennis authorities to follow the IOC and ban athletes representing Russia or Belarus.

Now, an announcement is expected from the WTA that her opponent will only be allowed to compete as a neutral athlete.

"It is not just going to be another WTA match - I have my country on my shoulders"

The match in Mexico is set to be one of the most symbolic sporting images of Ukrainian defiance as she will compete in her national colours.

She confirmed to ITV News that will wear the same kit that she wore when winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Svitolina said: “For sure it’s not going to be [just] another WTA match. I feel like I have my country on my shoulders. 

“Seeing how our people are defending our country gives me a lot of courage because they are standing tall, they are not scared to defend our land. It’s really special and I’m going to do my very best tonight if I step on the court and it’s going to mean a lot to me and to my country.

“I’m going to wear Ukrainian colours and for me this means a lot and that’s going to be a special night for me.”

"The tennis community should have done more" - Elina Svitolina said she did not feel enough support from tennis, which is why she decided to take a stand

Her preparation has been punctured with sleepless nights waiting for news from her family and friends in Ukraine.

“In the tennis community, more should’ve been done, today is already six days that serious and horrible things are happening in Ukraine. That’s why I decided to make a move because I didn’t feel enough support from our tennis community. As Ukrainians, we couldn’t sit silent anymore in feeling so much pain.

“There’s been a lot of discussion, today they will release a statement that they will remove the flags. So we are waiting just for the final confirmation about that. I will be playing tonight because my opponent is going to be under a neutral flag.”

On Tuesday, the WTA issued a statement, saying a "deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week".

It announced it was suspending the WTA/ATP combined event, scheduled this October in Moscow while the ITF board has made the decision to suspend the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation membership and to withdraw their entries from all ITF international team competition until further notice.

The statement continued: "The safety of the tennis community is our most immediate collective priority. The focus of the WTA and ATP in particular in recent days has been on contacting current and former players, and other members of the tennis community from Ukraine and neighbouring countries, to check on their safety and offer any assistance."

It said international governing bodies of tennis stood "united in our condemnation of Russia’s actions" and announced players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour and at the Grand Slams but not under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice.