Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina was booed at the French Open on Tuesday after refusing to shake the hand of her Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka.
Sabalenka won the Grand Slam quarterfinal matchup in straight sets, then went to the net to shake the hand of her opponent. But Svitolina did not respond in kind, instead offering a thumbs up before she exited the court.
While Svitolina refused the handshake as an act of protest against the war in her home country, fans took issue with her snub of Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka gets the better of Elina Svitolina to advance to the French Open semi-finals! 📈 The two do not share a handshake at the net ❌#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/OR0SLzLJwZ— Eurosport (@eurosport) June 6, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka gets the better of Elina Svitolina to advance to the French Open semi-finals! 📈 The two do not share a handshake at the net ❌#RolandGarros pic.twitter.com/OR0SLzLJwZ
The lack of handshake is not a new response for Svitolina, who has refused to shake the hand of any Russian or Belarusian opponent since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war. And she isn’t the only Ukrainian player to do so.
“We are Ukrainians, we all unite for one goal, for the goal of winning this war, and we do everything what is regarding on this topic,” she said on June 2. “I’m Ukrainian. I’m standing for my country. I’m doing everything possible in the way to support. … I’m representing my country. I have a voice. I’m standing with Ukraine.”
When asked about the boos, Svitolina said that she doesn’t pay attention to it that much.
“I’m not going to please everyone. I have my position and I stick to it,” she said. “I’m not going to sell my country for people’s sympathy.”
When asked if she believed that Sabalenka going to wait at the net for a handshake “inflamed” the situation, Svitolina agreed that it had.
“I don’t know what she was waiting for at the net, because my statements were clear enough about the handshake. I was expecting boos, it was not a surprise for me,” she said.
Russian player Daria Kasatkina followed her match against Svitolina earlier in the tournament with a thumbs up and was booed for it. Kasatkina has been outspoken in her criticism of the war, and last month expressed sympathy for Ukrainian tennis players who refuse to shake her hand following matches.
“Really thankful for her position that she took. She’s [a] really brave person to say it publicly, that not so many players did,” Svitolina said after their matchup. “She’s a brave one.”
Following the match, Kasatkina called out the crowd for their booing on Twitter.
“Leaving Paris with a very bitter feeling. All this days, after every match I’ve played in Paris I always appreciate and thanked crowd for support and being there for the players,” Kasatkina tweeted Monday. “But yesterday I was booed for just being respectful on my opponent’s position not to shake hands.
“Me and Elina showed respect to each other after a tough match but leaving the court like that was the worse part of yesterday. Be better, love each other. Don’t spread hate. Try to make this world better.”