Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina calls Russian opponent 'brave' following French Open win
Tennis player Elina Svitolina called her opponent, Russian Daria Kasatkina, a “brave one” following the Ukrainian’s upset win on Sunday.
Svitolina, who previously said she would not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents out of respect for the men and women defending Ukraine, told reporters that she “acknowledged” Kasatkina after the match.
Kasatkina has been outspoken in her criticism of the war, describing it last year as a “nightmare,” according to the New York Times.
Last month, Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked female tennis player, also expressed her sympathy for Ukrainian tennis players who refuse to shake her hand after 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 advancing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“She’s a brave one.”
Instead of a hand shake, Kasatkina gave her opponent a thumbs up at the net after losing the match 6-4 7-6 (7-5). She later said she was disappointed to hear boos from some members of the crowd.
“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.”
Kasatkina, who last year announced she was gay and criticized Russia’s attitudes towards homosexuality, has maintained her stance against the war in Ukraine.
“The saddest part is the war still going on,” the 26-year-old said last month. “So of course, players from Ukraine have got a lot of reasons to not shake our hands. I accept it and it is how it is. It’s a very sad situation and I understand.”
Playing in her first major since the 2022 Australian Open and first since becoming a mother, Svitolina said she was just focused on recovery and preparing for her next match.
“Of course I would love to win here,” Svitolina said. “It will be the dream, but it’s always been in my career like step by step.
“I think this is the only right way to do, to not look too much into the future, because otherwise you lose your focus from the small things that brings you to win the matches.”
Svitolina will play Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the next round on Tuesday.
World No. 2 Sabalenka stopped participating in customary post-match press conferences at the tournament after saying she didn’t feel safe at a previous press conference where she was questioned about her country’s involvement in the war.
Sabalenka said in March that she struggled to understand the “hate” she encountered in the locker room amid strained relations between some players following the invasion of Ukraine – Belarus is being used as a key staging ground for Russia.
“About the war situation, I said it many, many times, nobody in this world – Russian athletes, Belarusian athletes – supports the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Normal people will never support it,” she said.
Russian and Belarusian players are currently still competing on the tours as neutral athletes without their flag or country displayed.
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