The Ukrainian-born tennis prospect Eva Lys has called out Russian players for behaving disrespectfully at a developmental tournament in Kazakhstan.
In an interview with Eurosport, Lys – who moved to Germany when she was aged one, but has a Ukrainian father – said “Many Russian players who are here show disrespect to those affected by the Ukraine war. They laugh about it, make fun of it. Some are demonstratively putting on tracksuits in the Russian national colours."
The 20-year-old Lys also said that she had felt unsupported when she walked out for her match wearing Ukrainian colours of blue and yellow. “There were no verbal reactions to my outfit," she told the German newspaper Bild, "but you could feel the looks. The air is very thick.”
However, Lys did not go so far as to call for individual Russians to be excluded from tournaments. “Tennis professionals don't embody a country in the same way that national teams do,” she said. “So I think it's right to ban Russian teams to send a crystal clear message. And I think it's good that you take out flags or the reference to Russia in tennis, but let the individual professionals play.”
Ranked just outside the world’s top 300, Lys won the German national championship last year and was competing at a $25,000 event – the next rung down on the tennis ladder below the WTA Tour – in Nur-Sultan, the Kazakh capital. She won her opening match against an opponent from Liechtenstein before going out to Russia’s Anastasia Zakharova in the quarter-finals.
Lys also posted an image of her great-uncle Ivan Berezenko on social media, writing: “He is currently the head doctor of the trauma clinic in Kiev. At all times, he is staying in the clinic to perform surgeries on injured soldiers and civilians. At night, he is sleeping in a bunker under the hospital. I am so PROUD. We all are.”
At the more elevated level of the WTA Tour itself, two of the leading Ukrainian players continued to progress in their respective tournaments, both while wearing yellow-and-blue outfits.
World No.15 Elina Svitolina – who has pledged all her prize money from Monterrey to the military effort at home – fought out a three-set win over Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova to reach the quarter-finals. She said that the sight of a Ukrainian flag in the crowd had “really helped me today to fight”.
Meanwhile Dayana Yastremska – the 21-year-old who spent two nights in an underground car-park last week to avoid the bombs falling on Odessa – also reached the quarter-finals in Lyon. Yastremska said that her straightforward 6-2, 6-3 win over Spain’s Cristina Bucsa was “for my country”.