Svitolina has stood for Ukrainians people since the war began
Without Yuri Sapronov, Elina Svitolina may never have become a professional tennis player. This Ukrainian businessman is the reason why the former World No. 3 could make a living off tennis. “The situation of Ukrainian sports was and remains far from being ideal, especially for youngsters,” she said on radiosvoboda.org in 2017. “The country does not have enough money to pay for training courses, let alone for sending young athletes to international championships and tournaments. It is why the parents of promising athletes look for sponsors themselves. Yuriy Sapronov agreed to support me. I had a chance thanks to him.” A 16-time WTA title winner, Svitolina has decided that it was her turn to help the local talents. The Elina Svitolina Foundation was created in 2019; its initial goal was to scout and train the young talents through tennis camps hosted in Kyiv. But all this was before 24 February 2022, the day Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine. A few weeks later, she entered the court wearing a yellow top and a blue skirt to show her support to Ukraine; she thrashed Russian player Anastasia Potapova (6-1,6-2) in the Monterey Open first round. She then announced that she was putting her career on hold in French newspaper L’Équipe in March 2022. “It was hard for me to keep playing when the war started considering what my country and my family were going through. I don’t really care about WTA points anymore; I want to focus on my foundation.” Due to the war, her foundation changed both its goals and the way it worked. The priority is now to take care of the young Ukrainian players in exile in different parts of Europe.
I want to provide them with a place where they can keep practising and dreaming through these difficult times"
Last February, she went to Odessa, where her grandmother still lives. Though Odessa is one of the most targeted cities by the Russian forces, it remains immutably Ukrainian. And so does Elina Svitolina.