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Russian, Belarusian tennis players call for peace as Ukraine conflict rages

FILE PHOTO: ATP 500 - Abierto Mexicano
FILE PHOTO: Tennis – ATP 500 – Abierto Mexicano – The Fairmont Acapulco Princess, Acapulco, Mexico – February 25, 2022 Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in action during his semifinal match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal REUTERS/Henry Romero

March 10, 2022

By Rory Carroll

INDIAN WELLS (Reuters) – Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka called for peace amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which led to tennis officials removing any mention of their home countries from the Indian Wells tennis tournament.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in the largest attack on a European state since 1945. Russia calls the action a “military special operation”.

“My message is always the same – I want peace around the world,” world number one Medvedev told reporters on the eve of the first round of ATP action in the southern California desert.

“I think every tennis player will say the same thing.”

In fact, support for the Ukrainian people is pouring out from the tennis community.

Former world number ones Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray have pledged to support relief funds for children affected by the invasion.

In the meantime, two million people – mostly women and children – have fled Ukraine.

Polish woman Iga Swiatek encouraged people to support humanitarian organizations and said she was proud that her country had taken in refugees.

She will wear a small ribbon in the colors of the Ukrainian flag when she takes part in the tournament and hoped others would do the same.

“If other players feel able to support Ukraine with this symbolic gesture, we have prepared more of these ribbons and can give you some,” she wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

Sabalenka, whose homeland served as a staging ground for Russia’s invasion, told reporters she was ready to wear the ribbon of Ukraine.

“I’m really sad and I feel really bad about the Ukrainian citizens who lost their homes during the war,” said Sabalenka, who, like Medvedev, is the tournament’s top seed.

“I’m really worried, but unfortunately I have no control over it.

“I only hope for peace.”

While Russian and Belarusian players are not identified by their nation’s symbols, Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska, who fled the violence with her younger sister, emerged for her first-round match on Wednesday night wrapped in her country’s blue and yellow flag.

Yastremska, who has won three WTA titles, pledged to donate her prize money from reaching the final of last weekend’s Lyon Open to Ukrainian relief efforts.

(Lincoln Feast editors.)

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