Why tennis star got away with breaking the strict Wimbledon dress code

A Wimbledon star was allowed to break the grand slam’s strict all-white dress code this year for a very important reason.

Ukrainian tennis player Lesia Tsurenko criticized Russian “lies” this week about a rocket attack on a shopping center, saying she knew people affected by the attack after reaching the third round of Wimbledon.

Tsurenko, who wore a ribbon in Ukrainian colors, recovered from losing the first set and defeated compatriot Anhelina Kalinina 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

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Wimbledon has a strict all-white dress code, forcing players to remove items of clothing — such as hats and even bras — that don’t fit the bill. However, Tsurenko was allowed to break more than a century of tradition after reportedly speaking with organizers before entering court.

She wore a blue and yellow ribbon to her shirt on the sacred grass of the All England Club.

The Telegraph Strictly speaking, Wimbledon has not changed the rules, but has encouraged players who want to take a stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to talk to officials first.

The world’s No. 1 Iga Swiatek also wore a Ukrainian ribbon to her hat at Wimbledon, and Tsurenko said both she and Kalinina felt “great support” on Court 12, as fans waved Ukrainian flags.

In her press conference after the match, she said she had received permission from Wimbledon chiefs to wear the ribbon, referring to the “terrible things going on in Ukraine”.

“Especially it’s very painful for me to see Russian propaganda just saying that, for example, that shopping center in Kremenchuk didn’t work,” she said.

“That’s a lie, because my fitness coach is from that city. His mother-in-law… she works at this mall, and she was lucky she had a day off.

“He and his father, they were not far from that place… the father fell from the (shock) wave.”

A Russian missile destroyed the shopping center in the central city of Kremenchuk . on Monday and – according to local officials – at least 18 civilians killed.

The Russian army said it hit a nearby weapons depot the next day, with the explosion starting the fire in the center, which Moscow said was “not operational” at the time.

Tsurenko said she felt powerless and “extremely guilty” over the situation in her war-torn homeland, which was invaded by Russia in February.

“I feel like I can’t seem to do anything,” she said. “So all you have to do is keep playing, and like I said, I’m donating 10 percent of my prize money.”

Tsurenko said she supported Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the Grand Slam.

She said she had heard from only one Belarusian and one Russian player that they were against the war.

Tsurenko, ranked 101, urged people around the world to help if they could.

“If they think donating $10 means nothing, no, it isn’t,” she said. “It means a lot. In the city, in the main city of my region, the Mykolaiv region, they have been without water for a few months.

“So if you think $10 is nothing, it’s 10 bottles of water for these people.”

Meanwhile, Ukrainian doubles specialist Denys Molchanov says he could return to his homeland to help with the war effort, admitting he finds it difficult to focus on tennis as the conflict continues.

Molchanov, who teamed up with Russian-born Andrey Golubev in Wimbledon men’s doubles, is currently based in Zagreb with his wife and daughter, who fled Ukraine hours after the Russian invasion in late February.

“It’s always on my mind,” he said after his first-round defeat to Pedro Martinez and John-Patrick Smith at the All England Club.

“It’s hard to play in these conditions when we have (the war) in our country now and it’s not about tennis now.”

The 35-year-old won his first ATP doubles title in Marseille with Russian Andrey Rublev, days before the war broke out, then suffered an attack from Covid that kept him in France.

“I was lucky because I got Covid after Marseille, so I was stuck in France when it started, so I couldn’t go back,” he said. “If I had gone back, I couldn’t go out.”

Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country because they are eligible for military service.

Molchanov said he knew many people who had died in the conflict and cannot bear to see pictures of his country being “destroyed”.

Molchanov, 97th in doubles, said he was considering following the lead of his former Davis Cup doubles partner Sergiy Stakhovsky, who retired from tennis earlier this year and has since joined Ukraine’s reserve forces.

“He helps in different ways, but at the same time he can’t help as a soldier, it makes no sense,” he said.

“But he helps Ukraine in many different ways with humanitarian matters, with everything.”

Molchanov, whose brother also volunteers in Ukraine, said he was considering how he could help with the war effort.

“Everyone thought it would go fast, it won’t be more than a month — they hit us, they make us care and that’s it,” he said.

“But right now it’s a huge war and maybe one day, if it doesn’t stop, I’ll make the decision to stop and go there too. I feel like one day I may have to.”

For now, the player finds it difficult to concentrate on his daily work. Molchanov and Golubev – born in Russia but representing Kazakhstan – lost in straight sets in their first round match on Thursday.

“It’s hard to train, to practice, to find the fighting spirit on the track during the matches… I just walk there like a zombie,” Molchanov said.

“What is happening in Ukraine is slowly destroying the land and the people. Not everyone like me can leave the country and take the family with them.

“I’m not the richest man, but still I have some money to do this and people from the villages and small places who can’t do it should just stay there and die.”

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