Ukrainian tennis star pledges to donate prize money to her country’s army
- Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina has promised to donate her winnings to her country’s army.
- Elina said, “I was on a mission for my country,” after beating Russia’s Anastasia Potapova.
- Elina said she is devastated but also proud of seeing “mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and children” defending Ukraine.
Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina has pledged to donate her prize money to her country’s army after defeating Russia’s Anastasia Potapova at the Monterrey Open in Mexico on Tuesday.
“I was on a mission for my country,” Elina said in an on-court interview after the opening-round match, which drew a roar from the audience.
Dressed in the Ukrainian flag colors of yellow and blue, the 27-year-old said it was “a very special match for me,” adding: “I’m in a very sad mood, but I’m happy that I’m playing tennis here.”
On Monday, Elina posted a statement on Instagram, announcing she would not play any Russian or Belarusian tennis players unless they competed under a neutral banner, as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko is Putin’s closest international ally amid the invasion.
Elina agreed to play Potapova on Tuesday after the international governing bodies of tennis issued a joint statement that Russia and Belarus athletes would not be able to compete in international tennis events under their national flags.
“All the prize money I earn here is going to the Ukrainian army,” Elina said after the match. The Monterrey Open champion will be awarded $31,000, according to the AP.
Elina’s pledge reiterates her promise on Sunday to donate the prize money from her tournaments to Ukraine military and relief efforts. In an open letter addressed to her country and posted on Twitter, she wrote: “I commit to redistribute the prize money from my next tournaments to support army and humanitarian needs and help them to defend You, our country.”
While Svitolina said she was “devastated” and her “eyes won’t stop crying, my heart won’t stop bleeding,” she added, “I am so proud. See our people, our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, our children, they are so brave and strong, fighting to defend You. They are heroes.”
“The prayers of the entire world are with the people of Ukraine,” President Joe Biden said when the invasion began in force.