Ukrainian tennis star Lesia Tsurenko made headlines on Monday for withdrawing from the Indian Wells Masters, ahead of her third-round match against Belarusian player and Australian Open 2023 champion Aryna Sabalenka. Revealing the reason behind her decision 33-year-old Ukrainian said she decided to pull out of the tournament after suffering a panic attack. Speaking to the Big Tennis of Ukraine portal, she revealed that she was left in a state of shock after having a conversation with the WTA CEO Steve Simon over Russian and Belarusian tennis players.
“The reason for the refusal was a panic attack. Officially, it will be written as “personal reasons,” but in fact it was breathing problems and, one might say, hysteria,” Tsurenko said. “A few days ago, I had a conversation with our WTA CEO Steve Simon, and I was absolutely shocked by what I heard,” she added. Further explaining her side, Tsurenko revealed that the WTA CEO said he doesn’t support the war but he can’t do anything about what the Russian and Belarusian players think.
"If players from Russia and Belarus support it, it is only their own opinion"
“He told me that he himself does not support the war, but if players from Russia and Belarus support it, it is only their own opinion, and the opinion of other people should not upset me,” Tsurenko told BTU. Russian and Belarusian players were banned from participating in tournaments using their national flags by both the WTA and ATP after Russia began its invasion ok Ukraine last year. Earlier this month, British media reports claimed that Wimbledon is likely to revoke the ban over the participation of players from both countries for this year’s tournament.
Meanwhile, Tsurenko further revealed that the chat with Simon led her and her compatriots to question the WTA CEO’s position. She then added that she and other Ukrainian players had requested for a conference call with the WTA Board of Directors. Later on Monday, WTA also responded to the comments made by Tsurenko with a statement.
WTA responds to Ukrainian tennis star's comments
“The WTA has consistently reflected our full support for Ukraine and strongly condemns the actions that have been brought forth by the Russian Government. 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,” an excerpt from WTA’s statement read,