Elina Svitolina, a tennis player, praised her opponent Daria Kasatkina as a “courageous one” after the Ukrainian’s surprise victory on Sunday.
Svitolina had previously stated that she would not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents as a sign of respect for the people defending Ukraine. However, after her match, she told reporters that she acknowledged Kasatkina.
According to the New York Times, Kasatkina has been vocal about her disapproval of the war, referring to it as a “nightmare” last year.
Kasatkina, the highest-ranked female tennis player from Russia, recently conveyed her support for Ukrainian players who choose not to shake her hand following matches.
Svitolina expressed gratitude for the stance she took and commended her bravery in publicly speaking out, as not many other players have done. She made these remarks after progressing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“She is a courageous individual.”
Instead of a traditional handshake, Kasatkina opted to give her opponent a thumbs up at the net following her 6-4 7-6 (7-5) loss. She expressed disappointment upon hearing boos from certain members of the audience.
“I am departing from Paris with a strong sense of disappointment. Throughout these days, after each match that I have played in Paris, I have always expressed my gratitude and thanked the crowd for their support and presence for the players,” Kasatkina posted on Twitter on Monday.
“Yesterday, I received negative reactions for simply showing respect towards my opponent’s decision not to shake hands.”
“Elina and I exhibited mutual respect following a challenging match, but our departure from the court was the low point of yesterday. Let’s strive to improve and spread love instead of hate in order to make this world a better place.”
Kasatkina has stood firm in her opposition to the conflict in Ukraine and remains outspoken about her sexuality, openly declaring her homosexuality and condemning Russia’s treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
“I understand and accept that players from Ukraine may have reasons to not shake our hands due to the ongoing war,” the 26-year-old expressed last month. “It’s a heartbreaking situation and I empathize with it.”
Svitolina, who is playing in her first major tournament since the 2022 Australian Open and her first since becoming a mother, stated that she is solely focused on recovering and getting ready for her upcoming match.
“I would absolutely love to come out victorious here,” expressed Svitolina. “It has always been a dream of mine, but I have always approached my career one step at a time.”
“I believe that the best approach is to not focus too far ahead, as it can distract from the little things that ultimately lead to winning matches.”
On Tuesday, Svitolina will face off against Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus in the upcoming round.
World number two Sabalenka has ceased attending the regular post-match press conferences during the tournament. This decision was made after she expressed feeling unsafe during a previous press conference where she was asked about her country’s role in the ongoing war.
In March, Sabalenka expressed difficulty comprehending the negative attitude she faced in the locker room due to the tense relationships between certain players following the invasion of Ukraine. Belarus is currently being utilized as an important location for Russian operations.
She stated that she has repeatedly expressed her opinion on the war and that no one, including Russian and Belarusian athletes, supports it. She questioned how anyone could support such a conflict and stated that normal people would not support it.
Currently, Russian and Belarusian players are competing on tours as neutral athletes without representing their flag or country.