Lesia Tsurenko Accuses WTA, IOC Of ‘Ignoring The Violations Of Ukrainians' Rights’ Ahead Of French Open - UBITENNIS
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Lesia Tsurenko Accuses WTA, IOC Of ‘Ignoring The Violations Of Ukrainians’ Rights’ Ahead Of French Open

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Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko has claimed that the International Olympic Committee is trying to use tennis as an example to justify Russia’s inclusion in the 2024 Games.

The world No.63 has hit out at both the IOC and WTA for looking at sport from the perspective of a Russian player amid the ongoing war in her home country. Following the launch of Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine in February 2022, players from that country are only allowed to compete on the Tour under a neutral status and their national federation have been suspended from team events. The same penalty has also been issued to Belarus whose government is accused of supporting the war.  

Tsurenko has previously called for tougher penalties to be in place against Russian players due to the conflict. Earlier this year, she said she had a panic attack after speaking to WTA CEO Steve Simon who said she shouldn’t get upset if some of her peers supported the war as it is just their opinion. Speaking to the AFP News Agency, she described the incident as an ‘unpleasant conversation.’

“I was so shocked that a year ago Steve Simon told us if any player will show their support for the war, this person will be banned,” she said. 
“Then one year on he changes his attitude to, ‘it is ok to support the war’.
“It shocked me so much it just blew my mind.”

Simon and other tennis governing bodies have argued against calls for a ban to be implemented because players shouldn’t be punished for the actions of their regimes. Last year Wimbledon became the first and only major event to implement a ban amid concerns that the Russian government could use their players as propaganda. The All England Club has reversed their decision for this year’s tournament. 

Another talking point is the Olympics with calls being made for Russia’s exclusion from the 2024 Games in Paris. Tsurenko believes tennis’ policy of allowing players from Russia to continue playing on the Tour alongside their Ukrainian peers could be something used by the IOC to support their inclusion in the event. 

“I have a feeling now the IOC is using tennis as some kind of bridge… to say tennis is all good, they are playing against each other and it is not a problem and will use that in their decision about the Olympics,” she said.
“But it is a problem. It is very tough for Ukrainians to play against Russia and Belarus because of many reasons.
“The WTA and IOC are only looking at sports from a perspective of Russian and Belarusian human rights and ignore the violations of the Ukrainians’ rights.”

Historically there have been examples of countries being banned from the Olympic Games for a variety of reasons. South Africa was not invited to participate between 1964 and 1988 due to its support for the apartheid system. More recently, Afghanistan was barred from the 2000 Sydney Olympics due to its discrimination against women under the Taliban regime. 

Tsurenko admits that she is feeling ‘stressed’ about the possibility of having to play a Russian or Belarussian player at next week’s French Open. A tournament where her best result was reaching the fourth round in 2018. Should such a scenario occur, she has a strong message. 

“My message for the French Open is it is like what I said about other sports – we just have to go and beat them on any field,” she said.
“There is no sense for Ukrainian sportsmen to give up. What sort of message does that give?
“In tennis we tried so many things to ban them and the tennis organisations do not want to listen to us.”

The French Open will get underway on Sunday. 

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Emma Raducanu Confident Of Full Fitness Ahead Of Grass Swing

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Emma Raducanu - Cincinnati 2022 (foto Twitter @cincytennis)

Emma Raducanu has no regrets about her decision to skip the French Open and now believes she is in a ‘really fit place’ ahead of Wimbledon. 

The former US Open champion opted to end her clay season earlier than other players to focus on fitness and training with her coach. Raducanu stated earlier this year that her primary focus in 2024 is on her health after undergoing a series of wrist and ankle surgeries last year which sidelined her for months. 

Raducanu will return to action this week at the Nottingham Open, which is the event where she made her WTA main draw debut back in 2021. Despite her lack of match play in recent weeks, the Brit is feeling good and relishing her return to the grass.

“Body-wise, physical-wise, I feel really healthy,” she said on Monday.
“I’ve done amazing work with my trainer over the last few months, since surgery. I’m in a really fit place. I’m healthy and just looking forward to starting playing.”

Shedding more light on her health, Raducanu says she has full confidence in her wrists and believes they are in top condition. Making her feel more at ease when playing matches on the Tour. 

“I think my wrists are actually in a better position than they ever were. So there’s zero doubt or apprehension whether I’m hitting the ball or designing my schedule,” she explained.
“It’s more about being proactive and not wanting to put yourself in any unnecessary situations. I don’t need to rush and try to win the French Open, it wasn’t my goal this year.
“I had to prioritise where I wanted to target and it was just a good block for me to get some physical work done.”

Raducanu has played seven WTA events so far this season with her best run being to the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, where she was beaten by world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 209th in the world. 

At the Nottingham Open, she will play her first match on Tuesday against Japanese qualifier Ena Shibahara. 

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Russian World No.78 Elina Avanesyan To Switch Nationalities

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A week after losing her fourth round match at the French Open, a government minister has confirmed that Elina Avanesyan is in the process of changing the nationality of who she plays for. 

The 21-year-old is switching her aligence from Russia to Armenia, according to Armenia’s deputy Minister of International Affairs and communication. Karen Giloyan has told the news agency Armenpress that Avanesyan will soon be representing his country. However, the tennis player has yet to comment on the matter.  Avanesyan was born in Russia but has Armenian parents.

“Elina Avanesyan will compete under the Armenian flag, but there is nothing official yet. We are waiting for her to get the citizenship of the Republic of Armenia so that everything will be official,” Giloyan told Armenpress.

Such a development would be a massive coup for the Armenian tennis federation which currently doesn’t have a player ranked inside the top 500 on either the men’s or women’s Tour. The country has a population of less than 3M. Perhaps their best-known player is Sargis Sargsian who reached the top 40 back in 2004. Others on the Tour also have Armenian heritage but don’t represent the country such as Karen Khachanov.  

Avanesyan is currently ranked 78th in the world, which is 18 places below her career high. This season, she has scored high-profile wins over Maria Sakkari at the Australian Open, Ons Jabeur in Charleston and Qinwen Zhang at the French Open. 

She has yet to play in the final of a WTA tournament.

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Iga Looks To Be In A league All to Herself At Paris

Iga Swiatek claimed her fourth Roland Garros title in Paris.

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Just call her Iga. No other identification is needed.

As the years go by, Iga’s notoriety is sure to grow.

She’s probably already earned a spot in tennis’ Hall of Fame.

Yes, Iga Swiatek is a name to remember. A hero in her native Poland, a superstar in the world of sports.

IGA WAS JUST TOO GOOD

Iga just added to her stardom Saturday with an impressive 6-2, 6-1 victory over little-known Italian Jasmine Paolini to win her third straight French Open title. This was Paolini’s chance to make a name for herself, but she didn’t have the game to make it happen.

Iga was just too good. She made it look too easy.

Paolini could hit some great ground strokes, but when she looked up a bigger shot was on its way back. Iga doesn’t look like a power hitter, but she is.

WINNING 10 CONSECUTIVE GAMES

The 23-year-old Polish Wonder finished the first set winning five straight games, then started the second set winning five more games in succession. The 28-year-old Paolini didn’t seem to have a clue on how to upend Swiatek.

It took just 78 minutes for Iga to win her fifth Grand Slam title.

She’s a lot like her French Open hero, Rafa Nadal.

She takes every match seriously.

SWIATEK OWNS THE RED CLAY

No wonder Iga owns a 35-2 record at Roland Garos. Or that she has won 21 straight matches. Or that she owns a 5-0 record in Grand Slam finals.

She only dominated opponents, except for Naomi Osaka in the second round. Swiatek escaped a match point in that one and didn’t look back.

Iga’s game should be just as superb on the green grass of upcoming Wimbledon.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.

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