Ukrainian Elina Svitolina has pleaded with Wimbledon to extend last summer’s ban on the entry of Russian and Belarus players as the invasion of Ukraine nears the one-years mark on February 23.

The wife of Gael Monfils and mother of a newborn son, has expanded her role as advocate for her warn-torn nation while off the WTA on maternity leave.

The former No. 3 who last competed 11 months ago at Indian Wells, is calling on the All England Club to repeat its controversial 2022 stand which resulted in ranking points being withdrawn for tournament participants as punishment by the ATP and WTA.

The club has reportedly yet to make a 2023 decision; the other three Grand Slams have allowed the marked players to compete as independent athletes without a country flag of any national recognition.

 “The war is still there. The decision should not be any different,” the 28-year-old told the BBC. 

“I hope they will do the same thing and keep the ban in place. I don’t think it should change. There are still people suffering and still Russian soldiers killing innocent Ukrainians.

“I see a lot of comments that sport should be out of politics but Russian sport is a big part of their politics.,”

The two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist added: “We have to sanction Russian and Belarusian people in general because of what their  governments are doing. 

“This is my view. I have nothing against particular athletes. But how else can we stop this war?

“We should sanction the people from Russia and Belarusian as much as possible because their governments are doing these severe things in Ukraine. The sanctions will stop these governments doing what they are doing.”

The situation is complicated by the fact that Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka won the Australian Open a week ago and stands second in the world behind Iga Swiatek, whose neighboring country of Poland is a NATO member and firm contributor to international sanctions in place against Russia.

Svitolina, who has also written to the IOC on the sporting-political situation, added a personal touch to her plea.

“My grandma lives on the 13th floor of an apartment block and she has to walk up the stairs every day because she is scared to get stuck in the elevator.

“Any time of the day electricity can go off and you be trapped in this elevator for hours. It is extremely tough for older people. 

“There are lots of day-to-day issues that everyone is trying to manage in a good spirit. 

“The war is still in the country and we have to keep our spirits up for fighting the enemy and to find this strong spirit to continue every day in this horror.”

Main photo:- Australian Open 2023 Aryna Sabalenka (xxx) celebrates after she wins Ladies Singles Final Photo Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd