ITF president Ricci Bitti refutes Russian News Agency on Ukraine

ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti denies quotes attributed to him about Crimean tennis players representing Russia

The day after the Russian News Agency TASS reported that the International Tennis Federation “sees no problems at all for Crimean tennis players being part of the Russian national team,” the ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti, to whom the quote was attributed, issued a rebuttal.

In an ITF statement, Bitti said: “I refute the quotes attributed to me by ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday. Tennis is an individual sport and a Crimean player is free to represent any country for which he or she holds a passport. ITF team competitions have additional eligibility rules clearly laid out in the regulations. I believe that sport cannot disregard the political environment but should not be used for political purposes.”

TASS quoted that, in an interview with the agency, the ITF president had said:
“Crimea is a part of Russia. Crimean tennis players can without any problems play for the national team of Russia and represent the country at various tournaments. I do not see a problem here.”

Today’s statement by the ITF was quickly welcomed by Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who had greeted the TASS report yesterday with the comment: “Looks like Ricci-Bitti lost his moral judgment. I hope that @ITF_Tennis will apologise for his nonsense commentary regarding #Crimea.”

Stakhovsky’s equally quick response today said:

Ukraine lost in the World Group Playoffs last year against Belgium at a neutral venue in Estonia after the ITF decided that, on security grounds, Ukraine should not host the tie in Kiev.

Both Ukraine and Russia advanced to the second round of the Europe/Africa Group I ties, which will be played in July.

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