The loneliness of the Ukrainian players, who would like to “feel more support” of the circuit

At Roland Garros,

A poignant moment as we no longer see so much in the crumpled decoration of the press conferences. As expected, Lesia Tsurenko did not see the light of day in the face of Hurricane Swiatek on Monday in the first round of Roland, after having fought all week before qualifying. The Ukrainian, 104th in the world, responds bravely to the small assembly, in a thread between what it means and what it can say. So it starts with the most obvious thing: his constant discomfort, this guilt that never lets go, his desire to come back to help his country and play at the same time.

“Win or lose, it really doesn’t matter”

“To tell you the truth, I don’t feel great playing. I ask myself a lot of questions, I don’t know where to go, where to train, where to live, I have to keep playing, because I’m not 20 anymore. I am no longer 20 years old and I understand that there is something much more important than tennis matches. I try to find that balance between going to the track and not worrying completely or trying to make it important. So I go there, I play and then, somehow, I say to myself: after all, whether I lose or win, it doesn’t matter. »

The emotion is palpable and we hardly dare to type on the keyboard for fear of disturbing the young woman in this painful introspection. Then comes what really means: Tsurenko, like many of his compatriots on the circuit, is dismayed by the reaction of the authorities to make Wimbledon a pointless tournament this year. Why this sanction? The venerable British tournament is the only Grand Slam that has decided to exclude Russian and Belarusian players because of the Ukrainian war, a decision deemed “discriminatory” by the ATP and the WTA.

Wimbledon’s dubious position … Or cases?

The circuit did not like any of them, and we did not find anyone better than John Isner to sum up the environmental mess seen by the players: “Personally, I do not agree with this decision to ban Russians and Belarusians. Of course I support the ATP because I think these players should play, they have nothing to do with the invasion of Ukraine. So I understand the decision of the authorities, but on the one hand the points are important, it is the our own currency ”.

Come on, we will also mention Dominik Thiem, the only one who vaguely got a little tall, but without Ghandi either: “There are players who have a lot of points to defend and for whom it is very difficult of course. but I think we should try to take a step back. The real problem is not at Wimbledon, it is in Ukraine where we would like to find a situation of peace very quickly. Do you find that there is a lack of empathy for the dramatic situation of the friends of the Ukrainian locker rooms? It’s all the drama of a circuit going upside down.

If Roland-Garros, following government policy, never considered sending the Russians home, simply forcing them to play under a neutral flag, the Wimbledon organization indicated that the only way to postpone this ban would be to been to get them to sign “a written statement.” “against the invasion carried out by his country. You can also pee on a violin, as not a single Russian performer has ventured, the bravest as Rublev and Medvedev are content to ask for peace singing John Lennon all together. , like Kachanov, are even outraged to be told this over and over again. NY times took for the whole battalion:

– “You don’t even ask me a question about my party, don’t you care?” »

– “Um, yes, then I was going to talk about your party”

– “No, but okay, go ahead and ask your question”

Stormy introduction, fortunately followed by a more constructive comment: “I’ve said several times that I was sad about this Wimbledon decision and that I can’t play it. We do our job, we try to be professional every day, I would lie to you if I didn’t say that this situation doesn’t affect me. But I don’t want to get into more controversy than that. Or say a word to my Ukrainian office mates between two doors, you shouldn’t push. The indifference of the circuit ended up disgusting Svitolina, almost in emotional burnout lately.

Polish Iwa Swiatek wore a small Ukrainian-colored needle on her cap. – Thomas SAMSON / AFP

“I would like more support from the world of tennis”

“Speaking of the world of tennis, sometimes I would like to see or feel that people understand this life in general a little better,” says Tsurenko. But when it doesn’t happen in your country, you don’t really understand how dramatic it is. I hate what Russian propaganda says about Ukraine, I hate all that because they repeat a lot of lies about my country and it hurts me a lot. I pray before every tournament not to fall for a Russian player because I don’t know what I will do … I would like the big players to support us more. Since the war started, what, four or five players have come to talk to me, a little more to the coaches, that’s all.

Thus, Swiatek’s small gesture of nothingness, which carried a small needle with the Ukrainian colors, almost moved her to tears. “I am very grateful for the support that Iga is showing and I know that Poland in general is doing a lot for Ukraine. I would like a little more support from the tennis world, yes, but it’s been three months since the war and I don’t have the impression that switch to.

Even in the stands, the natural sympathy of recent weeks for Ukrainian players – there are no entries among men – tends to fade, while Russian players are no worse than men. We were surprised by the number 7 jubilant track for Kuznetsov’s colorful game, it’s true, and if Kachanov was surprised by the Portuguese contingent that had come to cheer on his rival in the first round, “he appreciated the electric atmosphere and the French public in front of him. of which he loves to act, he the former winner of Bercy.

Indifferent Russian players?

So Ukrainian players prefer to live in packages, serving each other. Lesia Tsurenko has been invited to train in Italy by Marta Kostyuk, who is due to start on Tuesday. Dayana Yastremska, whose flight has been reported many times in Lyon, trained at the Paris country club, where she sought out her friends, she says. The Parisian “At first, a lot of players sent me messages and offered me help or whatever I needed. But I have not received any comments from Russian or Belarusian players. Even in my personal life, however, there are two girls I was very close to … “

Maybe he’s thinking of Victoria Azarenka, trapped between a rock and a hard place. Belarusian who has been living abroad for a long time, but also a member of the players’ council and very embarrassed in the corners: “I am a tennis player who does her job, this is what I will continue to do. Anything other than that, I will help as much as I can, not just talking to the media because a lot of people are trying to do that. I believe in unity, in being a good person, in helping others whenever I can and I will continue to do so ”. The former world number 1 could probably consider initiating legal proceedings to play Wimbledon. But for now, no Russian player interviewed claims to think about it.

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