After defeating her Russian opponent Veronika Kudermetova in the semifinals of the Rome Masters in Italy on Friday, Ukrainian tennis player Anhelina Kalinina declined to shake hands.
After the game at Foro Italico in Rome, Kalinina explained to journalists, “We did not exchange handshakes because the other player is from Russia. It is no secret that I chose not to shake hands because this country has been hostile towards Ukraine.”
“I do understand that sports can also have political implications, so it’s not just a physical activity. Therefore, it is not a personal matter, but in general, it is not acceptable.”
Kudermetova was questioned regarding her connection with Kalinina and the impact of any “political undertones”. She replied, stating, “As athletes, we are solely focused on our game here. It doesn’t matter which country we represent. We are all athletes, and that is all that matters. Our purpose here is to play tennis.”
Kalinina refuted the notion that her opponent’s nationality had any impact on the unpredictable nature of the match. She praised Kudermetova as a skilled and exceptional player, emphasizing that the match was solely about the sport of tennis.
Kalinina, who was ranked 47th in the world, faced off against Kudermetova, ranked 12th, in the tournament. Kalinina emerged victorious after three sets with scores of 7-5, 5-7, and 6-2.
The 26-year-old Ukrainian was inquired about her family, who presently reside in Kyiv. She disclosed that there was a bomb detonation near the tennis academy where her parents are employed. She also mentioned that her grandparents eventually relocated from Nova Kakhovka, her place of birth, after an explosion near their residence.
During her post-match interview, Kalinina expressed the significance of winning every match and the impact it has on her country, Ukraine. She hopes to bring a small sense of positivity and light to her nation through her performances.
On Saturday, Kalinina will compete against either Elena Rybakina in the final match. Rybakina was born in Russia, but has been representing Kazakhstan since 2018.