Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine on Monday blamed a panic attack at the prospect of facing Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka for her pre-match third-round weekend pullout at the Indian Wells Masters.

Tsurenko turned in her ninth walkover or retirement in Tour 18 events dating back a year.

The Ukrainian player has been outspoken against the prospect of allowing Russian and Belarus competitors back into Wimbledon.

That decision is expected to be made in the coming weeks after players from the two aggressor countries were barred from the All England Club last summer.

The ban resulted in the Grand Slam being stripped of ranking points with threats of further sanctions from the ATP and WTA if the situation was repeated. 

No. 95 Tsurenko said that she was stunned into silence after speaking with WTA supremo Steve Simon – a former Indian wells official – who basically told her to calm down about the invasion of her country by Russia.

“The reason for the withdrawal was a panic attack,” Tsurenko told Ukraine’s Big Tennis Ukraine website on Monday.

“Officially it will be written ‘personal reasons’, but in fact it is breathing problems and, one might say, hysteria.”

The 33-year-old added: “I was absolutely shocked by what I heard. 

“He told me that he himself does not support the war, but if the players from Russia and Belarus (do), then this is only their own opinion, and the opinion of other people should not upset me..

“At the same time, he noted that if this had happened to him and he had been in my place, he would have felt terrible.

“When asked if he understood what he was saying to me during the active phase of Russia’s military aggression in my country, he said yes, and this was his opinion.”

She said that she and her compatriot players have requested a conference call with the WTA Board  to discuss the situation.


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