Iga Swiatek has called for more to be done to help Ukrainian players after Lesia Tsurenko withdrew from the Indian Wells Open due to a panic attack.
Ukraine’s Tsurenko was scheduled to play Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka in the third round on Sunday, but was initially eliminated for “personal reasons”.
She later revealed that her decision was due to a panic attack sparked by a conversation with WTA boss Steve Simon about tennis’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Swiatek offered Tsurenko her full support and wants the focus to be more on Ukrainian players than on Russian and Belarusian players at a very challenging time.
“I completely understand why she retired. I respect the Ukrainian girls so much,” said the world number one after her 6-3, 6-1 win over Emma Raducanu in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
“If a bomb landed in my country or my home was destroyed, I don’t know if I could handle it and compete.
“You have to be really mentally there to compete every week. So I understand that she wasn’t ready for that.
“I think more should be done to help Ukrainian players. Everything we discuss in tennis is about Belarusians and Russians, if they should be allowed what’s going on with them.
“I don’t think that’s right. We should focus more on helping Ukrainian players and giving them everything they need.
“They basically have all their families to look after, and there’s a lot of baggage on their shoulders.”
Swiatek, who wears a Ukrainian flag on her cap, called out Anastasia Potapova earlier this week after wearing a Russian soccer jersey on the pitch in Indian Wells.
Potapova, who is allowed to compete in events as a neutral, wore a Spartak Moscow shirt ahead of her 3-6, 4-6, 5-7 defeat by Jessica Pegula on Monday.
“To be honest, I was surprised,” said Swiatek. “I thought the player realized that even if she’s a fan of the team, she shouldn’t show her views like that at moments like this.”
Leader Swiatek believes the situation could have been avoided if the WTA had set out clear guidelines regarding the highly sensitive political situation.
“It’s a difficult situation. It’s quite emotional as I feel like these situations with people wearing Russian football shirts because we didn’t have proper leadership,” Swiatek said.
“There is a lot of tension in the dressing room that will obviously be there because there is a war.
“But maybe it would have been a little less [tension] if the WTA did something at the outset to kind of explain to everyone what’s right and what’s not.”
Swiatek resumes her title defense in Indian Wells against Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals on Thursday.