“We respect the position of Ukrainian athletes”: WTA finally positions itself on post-match handshakes

A new episode between Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka has forced the WTA to communicate.

Azarenka Svitolina Wimbledon 2023 | Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic Azarenka Svitolina Wimbledon 2023 | Chryslene Caillaud / Panoramic

The WTA made an unexpected update on its position regarding handshakes between Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian players on Monday, finally communicating some advice to the general public.

“Following the unfortunate circumstances and misunderstanding in yesterday’s match at Wimbledon (along with other matches the past several weeks), the WTA would like to provide clarity around post-match handshakes,” the tour said in a statement.

“Due to the ongoing reprehensible war, the WTA respects the position of the Ukrainian athletes in foregoing the tradition of shaking opponents’ hands (from Russia and Belarus) at the end of a match, as this is a personal decision. We have some of the best fans in the world and are grateful for their passion and dedication, and we thank them for their understanding and respect for the athletes,” declared the association on Twitter.

On Sunday, Elina Svitolina, in the wake of her qualification for the Wimbledon quarter-finals against Victoria Azarenka, chose not to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent at the net. In solidarity, it is the same for every Ukrainian player when they face a Russian or Belarusian opponent, in light of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, which began in February of 2023.

It wasn’t a surprise to the players themselves. The Ukrainian had done the same at Roland-Garros when Aryna Sabalenka showed up to greet her after their quarter-final tussle. She criticizes the players concerned, Russians and Belarusians, for not committing enough to the war that is hitting Ukraine.

When she left the court, Victoria Azarenka was booed by the crowd, setting the controversy alight once again.

Later, Azarenka gave her take: “She does not want to shake hands with Russians and Belarusians. I respect his decision. What should I have done? Stay and wait? There’s nothing I could have done that would have been right, so I did what I thought was respectful of her decision.”

Elina Svitolina then asked the tournament organizers to formalize the end of the handshakes between the Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian players. Her wish was granted, but Wimbledon itself has yet to follow suit.

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