Azarenka: Focusing on handshakes and boos is a “shame”

After getting booed at Wimbledon, Victoria Azarenka takes the high road and tells reporters that there are much bigger problems to worry about in the world.

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

After her round of 16 defeat (2-6, 6-4, 7-6(9)) at the hands of Elina Svitolina, Victoria Azarenka showed respect for the Ukrainian’s wishes, acknowledging her but not attempting to shake her hand. The Belarusian already knew that Svitolina will not be shaking hands with Russian or Belarusian players after matches, and the fact has been well publicised after fans at Roland-Garros who were not completely informed on the situation – or simply didn’t care – ended up booing several players (including Ukrainians) during the Parisian fortnight, when they didn’t shake hands with Ukrainian players.

In Paris, rowdy fans love to boo, and they do so at every opportunity.

It was expected that at Wimbledon, where fans boast of possessing a bit more nuance, the situation would be different.

Not so.

Fans sent off Azarenka to a chorus of boos, prompting nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, who was commentating the match, to say: “Ooh, I don’t know why the crowd is booing Azarenka, I mean, really? The crowd is wrong on that one.”

Azarenka herself was quick to brush off the boos. She told reporters that there are a lot bigger problems in the world, and lots of good tennis to focus on as wel.

“I can’t control the crowd,” she said. “I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening, so… It’s probably been a lot of Pimm’s throughout the day.

“This conversation about shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation. So if you guys want to keep talking about it, bring it up, make it a big deal, headlines, whatever it is, keep going.”

“That’s a shame”

Azarenka went on to tell reporters that they’d be better served by focusing on the great contest that the pair contested on No.1 court. A battle of mothers, one a former No 1 and two-time Slam champion, the other a former world No 3.

“I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or crowd, quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame,” she said.

For those still unclear on what is happening: Ukrainians will not shake hands with any players from Belarus or Russia. Many Russian and Belarusian players, out of respect for the Ukrainian’s wishes, don’t approach the net but instead give a knowing glance or respect to the Ukrainian.

Fans that aren’t paying close attention just can’t keep from booing. It happens. It’s happening. It looks like it will continue to happen. Now, onto the tennis.

“What can I say about the crowd? There is nothing to say,” Azarenka said. “She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited? Like, I mean, there’s no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision.”

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