Svitolina: War changed me in many ways I ‘I’m donating to kids of Ukraine’

Elina Svitolina, who won the WTA title in Strasbourg just seven months after becoming a mother, has promised to donate her French Open prize money to the children of Ukraine.

Svitolina, who is married to French player Gael Monfils, became parents to their daughter Skai in October with the Ukrainian only returning to the tour in April.

The former world No 3 announced last March that she was taking a sabbatical, citing the mental toll of the Russian invasion on her home country, and shortly after announced her pregnancy.

Last week, Svitolina entered Strasbourg ranked down at No 508 in the world, but 28-year-old claimed the title.

Svitolina, who has never gone past the quarter-finals at Roland Garros, is using her protected ranking to play at the Grand Slam, and she came through her first-round match against Italian 26th seed Martina Trevisan 6-2 6-2 on Monday.

Having celebrated her title in Strasbourg by donating her prize money to help children in her homeland, Svitolina has promised to do the same at Roland Garros.

“After Strasbourg, yes, I’m donating this money to the kids of Ukraine,” said Svitolina, who won the WTA Finals in 2018 and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and US Open in 2019. “We will see where exactly it’s going to go.

“With this prize money I will see what the possibilities are and what the needs of the cities are.

“Also, with my foundation, we are doing some health programs, mental health programs for the kids. So part maybe will go also to this. So there are paths that we might take but we will see what are the urgent needs right now.”

Svitolina admits the Ukraine war has changed her personally since becoming a wife and a mother.

“I think war changed me in so many ways. I think I treasure my time with my family, my time just on a daily basis,” she said.

“I really try to understand how lucky I am to be where I am and to have a voice, as well. Also to play at such a big events and to have opportunity to play such big events, to motivate young kids of Ukraine, to have this opportunity.

“So in so many ways, I’m just grateful that my life turned like that, so that’s why I just want to give this little part to the people who need it the most right now. I just want to do something in return.”

I’m just grateful that my life turned like that, so that’s why I just want to give this little part to the people who need it the most right now. I just want to do something in return.

Elina Svitolina

Svitolina also added there is too much “rubbish” being talked about Ukraine on tour, adding: “What I found is a lot, I don’t know in a nicer way to say, but a lot of rubbish is happening around the situation where we have to focus on the main point of what is going on.

“A lot of Ukrainian people need help and support and we are focusing on so many things, like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation.”

Russian and Belarusian players have continued to compete on the tour, albeit as neutral athletes and without a flag, since the invasion in February 2022.

On Sunday Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk was jeered by some of the crowd at Roland Garros after walking off court without shaking the hand of her opponent, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands,” said Svitolina.

“We are missing the main point that people at this time need help as never before. The kids are losing their parents, they are losing parts of their bodies.

“We are missing the main point and talking, talking, talking about nothing,” she said. “Well, here, empty, completely empty words. Not helping.”

Garcia wins, but Bencic bows out

Fifth seed Caroline Garcia survived a scare to defeat China’s Wang Xiyu 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 6-4.

Victory means Garcia has become the sixth French female player with the most main draw wins at the Roland Garros in the Open Era (17, equalling Nathalie Dechy).

Meanwhile, Belinda Bencic, the 12th seed in Paris, suffered a shock 6-3 2-6 6-4 defeat to Russian Elina Avanesyan.

Source : Sky Sports