Aryna Sabalenka exacerbated handshake snub by waiting at the net, says Elina Svitolina
Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina said she was not sure why Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka waited at the net to shake hands after the French Open match.
With war raging in her home country, Svitolina has refused to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players since returning to tennis last year after the birth of her first child.
But Sabalenka, who advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win at Roland Garros on Tuesday, waited at the net to acknowledge Svitolina.
“I don’t know, to be fair, what she was waiting for [for]Because my statements were quite clear about the handshake,” the former world No. 3 told reporters.
He added: “My initial reaction was, I don’t know, like, what are you doing? Because, yes, throughout my press conference I state my clear position. So I don’t know.”
Sabalenka faced a similar scenario against Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in the first round of the French Open, when her opponent also walked off the court without shaking hands.
After her third- and fourth-round matches, Sabalenka stopped participating in traditional post-match press conferences, saying she did not feel safe when she attended one last Wednesday.
However, he attended a regular press conference after the quarter-finals and said he waited at the net out of “temper”.
The world No. 2 also reiterated her stance against the war in Ukraine and said she had always respected the press conference format.
“I am always open in my answers,” Sabalenka told reporters. “I felt bad not being here. I couldn’t sleep. As all those bad feelings were in my mind, I could not sleep.
“I felt bad not being here. I really respect you all. Thank you so much for coming here, for taking an interest in me.”
Asked if Sablenka had provoked the handshake situation by waiting at the net, Svitolina said: “Yes, unfortunately I think so.”
Despite being away from tennis, the 28-year-old Svitolina enjoyed a strong run at the French Open after winning her 17th WTA title in Strasbourg ahead of the tournament.
She managed to go toe-to-toe with Sabalenka on Court Philippe-Chatier for most of the first set and was broken early in the second set as she attempted a comeback.
But Sabalenka’s power game from the baseline eventually overwhelmed Svitolina as she earned two breaks of serve to win in straight sets.
The Australian Open champion finished the match with 30 wins to Svitolina’s seven and will face Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova on Thursday for a place in the French Open final.