Tennis-Saville says can't go back to Russia after opposing Ukraine invasion


FILE PHOTO: Mar 10, 2022; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Daria Saville (AUS) reacts after winning a point in her first round match against Shuai Zhang (CHN) on day 4 at the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Australian tennis player Daria Saville says she can no longer return to Russia, the country of her birth, after protesting the military intervention in Ukraine.

Saville wore yellow and blue, the colours of Ukraine, at the Paris Open in March and urged Vladimir Putin to stop the war and the Russian army to return home in a post on social media.

"Already I can't really go back to Russia, no," she told Australian media at the French Open.

"I definitely do support the Ukrainian players ... imagine not having a home."

Saville, whose parents live in Moscow, represented Russia in tennis until emigrating to Australia seven years ago.

She competed under her maiden name Gavrilova until marrying Australian tennis player Luke Saville last year.

She expressed mixed feelings about Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players, which prompted tennis's governing bodies to strip the Grand Slam of ranking points.

"(It’s a) grey area because I have way too many friends in Russia," said the 28-year-old.

"[Daria) Kasatkina is one of my best friends. I want her to play, but they also understand the decision, too.

"I still treat everyone the same. I don’t change how I treat people and ... nothing has changed for me.

"There is worse things happening (than) not playing Wimbledon."

The men's and women's tennis tours have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, which Moscow calls a "special military operation", but allowed players from the countries to compete as neutrals.

A slew of top players have criticised Wimbledon's ban, including Serbian men's world number one Novak Djokovic and Spanish 21-times Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal.

Russian world number seven Andrey Rublev said Wimbledon had broken a "deal" and urged the Grand Slam's organisers to come together with tour officials to save the sport.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by ...)

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