Elina Svitolina, a Ukrainian tennis player, explained that she made the decision to avoid shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players at the French Open out of respect for the soldiers who fought for their nation in the conflict with Russia.
After winning the women’s singles third-round match in Paris by scores of 2-6, 6-2, and 7-5, Svitolina declined to shake hands with Russian Anna Blinkova.
After meeting Russian and Belarusian tennis players who were permitted to play as neutrals, other Ukrainian players also decided to adopt this approach.
“It started with the Ukrainian Government that went to the meetings with the Russian Government,” said Svitolina in a report by English newspaper The Independent.
“They [Ukraine] were against shaking the hands because they’re not sharing the same values, obviously, and what the Russians are doing to our country.
“We are Ukrainians, all united for one goal of winning this war.
“We do anything that is required.
“I am Ukrainian. I am standing for my country, doing anything possible to support men and women who are right now in the front line fighting for our land, our country.
“Can you imagine the guy or girl in the front line looking at me and I am acting like nothing is happening?”
Svitolina took a break after the birth of her first child and is now making her first Grand Slam appearance in 16 months.
Shortly after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the 28-year-old had quit playing the sport.
Svitolina will face ninth-seeded Daria Kasatkina of Russia in the fourth round.
In the past, Kasatkina has argued that Ukrainians have valid cause not to shake hands with opponents from her nation owing to the continuing conflict, which she has been a vocal opponent of.
“I’m thankful to Dasha for taking this position,” said Svitolina.
“That’s what you expect from others, as well. It’s really brave from her.”
Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk was booed off the court after she refused to shake hands with Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka following her first-round defeat in Paris.
Kostyuk said “people should be embarrassed” after their reaction to her handshake snub of the world number two who stated that her opponent “didn’t deserve to leave the court that way”.
A Ukrainian journalist questioned Sabalenka about the conflict in her country after she won the first and second rounds.
After defeating Frenchwoman Kamilla Rakhimova 6-2, 6-2 in the third round, Sabalenka was scheduled to address the media once more. However, she opted not to go, claiming mental health issues.
Instead, a transcript of her conversation with a select group of journalists chosen by the tournament organizers was made public.
“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts,” said Sabalenka.
“These questions do not bother me after my matches.
“I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference.
“I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches.
“For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision.
“It hasn’t been an easy few days, and now my focus is continue to play well here in Paris.”