Dubai: Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina may be on the Tour herself at the moment, but the ongoing conflict with Russia in her country has been giving her sleepless nights - worrying about her family, friends and compatriots.
“I haven’t been sleeping much, trying to see what is happening, how we can help and what we can do,” she told CNN in a video interview from Monterrey in Mexico.
. “This has been the worst time of my life because I have my parents, my friends, my Ukrainian people who are fighting there for our country. This has been an extremely, extremely tough time for everyone.”
Now 27 and a two-time winner at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships who is married to Gael Monfils, Svitolina lauded the spirit of her people who are joining in the fight daily. “There are very brave people who are staying and also brave people who are on the move or trying to move to a safe space.
“I admire people who decided not only to stay there, but also to take weapons into their hands...girls and guys fighting for our country every single minute of the day.”
What about the role of sports personalities at this point? “I think it is extremely important that all the sports people come together and stand together. I think we have a big community. We can unite and make a difference to explain to people what’s really happening because I think there are still lots of people who don’t really understand that we are in big danger and that we are fighting for peace.”
Asked about Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev, who spoke out against the war, she said: “I’ve seen his [Rublev’s] very good moves, but I think we can do much more and bigger impact on that.
“I try to invite all the tennis community to support us. Doesn’t matter from what country you are, but I think we have to stand together.”
On the response to the war from Ukraine government, she was full of praise for the stand taken by the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky. “I’m very proud of Zelensky, he did an unbelievable job already so far. He had the opportunity to leave the country but he decided to stay. That takes a lot of courage.”
Finally, she had a message to NATO, Ukraine’s allies and the wider public: “Try to donate money to our army, to the military of Ukraine who are fighting right now and who are losing a lot of soldiers, innocent people as well.”