World No.1 tennis player Iga Swiatek has called out Russian player Anastasia Potapova after she wore a Russian football jersey onto court at Indian Wells. Potapova was seen wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt before her clash with Jessica Pegula on Monday, which she lost 6-3 4-6 5-7.
The moment seemed innocuous enough, however a number of tennis fans and commentators took exception to Potapova’s actions due to the message it seemingly sends about her home nation. Russian and Belarusian players are currently barred from competing under their national flags due to the invasion of Ukraine, however they are allowed to play as neutral athletes.
At such a tumultuous time, many believed Potapova was wrong to show her support for Russia – albeit through her favourite football team. Swiatek was among those to hit out over Potapova’s actions after her win over Bianca Andreescu on Monday.
“To be honest, I was surprised,” Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. “I thought the player realised that she should not, even if she is a fan of the team, show her views in this way at such times.”
The Polish star revealed she had discussed the incident with the WTA, and criticised the governing body for a lack of clarity around the situation. “I’ve talked to the WTA and in a way I found out that there should be less such situations because they will explain to other players that you can’t promote any Russian teams these days, which reassured me a bit,” the 21-year-old said.
“On the other hand, I think these situations unfortunately happen because this announcement should have taken place much earlier. There was a lot of chaos in the locker room at the beginning of the war.
“It was not clear how to approach everything, which causes such unpleasant situations. I think if there had been better leadership from the beginning, maybe we would have avoided such situations.”