Alexandr Dolgopolov expressed his sheer dissent at WTA CEO Steve Simon’s comments on the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which he made during a chat with Ukrainian tennis player Lesia Tsurenko. Simon told Tsurenko to ‘not be upset’ even if Russian and Belarusian players are in support of the war as it is their opinion.
Tsurenko revealed details of her discussion with Simon after withdrawing from her Indian Wells third-round match against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, which she later admitted was due to a panic attack she experienced in light of her recent chat with Simon regarding the war.
The now-retired Ukrainian tennis star Dolgopolov criticized Simon for sharing his views on the war in a private conversation that intimidated Tsurenko and challenged him to go public with his comments.
“Steve Simon, @WTA CEO to @LTsurenko:“I don’t support the war, but it’s OK if players support it”. Steve, instead of intimidating Ukrainian women, be a man and take this to the public. Conversation happened with you on duty, people deserve to know, it’s OK, to support genocide,” Dolgopolov wrote on Twitter.
Steve Simon, @WTA CEO to @LTsurenko :“I don’t support the war, but it’s OK if 🇷🇺🇧🇾 players support it”.
Steve, instead of intimidating Ukrainian women, be a man and take this to the public. Conversation happened with you on duty,people deserve to know,it’s OK, to support genocide https://t.co/2fcIgmzTwj
— Alex Dolgopolov (@TheDolgo) March 13, 2023
In her statement, Lesia Tsurenko reflected on her conversation with Simon, who sympathized with her over the situation in her country, before further stating his views on the probable stance of certain Russian and Belarusian players.
“When I asked whether he understood that he tells me all of this while there is an active war against my country going on right now, he said yes, that this was his opinion,” Lesia Tsurenko said.
“He added that he himself would be feeling terrible, if he was in my shoes, and while he doesn’t support the war personally, but if the players from Russia and Belarus do support it, he said, this is only their own opinion and the opinion of others should not upset me,” she added.
The 33-year-old player further conveyed that she tried to overcome her feelings of complete ‘shock’ upon first hearing Simon’s views on the war, but could not deal with the emotions anymore ahead of her match against world No. 2 Sabalenka.
“Steve Simon expressed his confidence to me that the Russians and Belarussians will return to the Olympics” – Lesia Tsurenko
Lesia Tsurenko also revealed that WTA CEO Steve Simon confidently expressed to her that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be reinstated at the Olympic games and will continue to compete in the manner they are on the ATP and WTA tours as of now, which is under a neutral flag and without official representation of their respective countries. Simon told Tsurenko that such a decision would be in the spirit of fair play and ‘equal opportunity’ for all athletes.
“Steve Simon expressed his confidence to me that the Russians and Belarussians will return to the Olympics and it will happen as it is happening in tennis right now,” Lesia Tsurenko added in her statement.
“He told me that this is in fact a fair play and it shows that Olympic principles are not violated. That it will show that everyone is equal and everyone has the opportunity to perform at the Olympics.”
The former world No. 23 and her Ukrainian colleagues have called for a meeting with the WTA Board of Directors to discuss Simon’s comments and Tsurenko questioned his leadership capabilities in her statement.
Before withdrawing from Indian Wells ahead of facing Sabalenka, Tsurenko, who reached the Round of 32 as a qualifier, beat the in-form Donna Vekic after dropping the first set.