In a tense moment at Wimbledon on Sunday, July 9, Belarusian tennis star Victoria Azarenka faced boos from the crowd following her defeat against Ukrainian opponent Elina Svitolina. The incident unfolded when Azarenka did not shake hands with Svitolina after the match, sparking a wave of misunderstanding and controversy.
The root of the issue lies in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Belarus, Azarenka’s home country, has publicly and militarily supported Russia in its war against Ukraine. This has led to several sports and awards organizations implementing bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes due to the geopolitical situation.
However, what the crowd failed to recall was that Svitolina had previously announced her stance of not shaking hands with players from Russia or Belarus due to the conflict. Azarenka, in an attempt to respect her opponent’s decision, waved toward Svitolina after the match, explaining that she was following her lead regarding the handshake.
Both players expressed their belief that the crowd had misunderstood the situation. Svitolina even mentioned that she believed the reaction would have been similar if she had lost the match. Azarenka, in response to the boos, stated, “There is nothing to say. She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision.”
Svitolina suggested that tennis organizations should issue a statement clarifying the protocol for handshakes between Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian players, emphasizing the need to educate the public about the ongoing conflict and its impact on sportsmanship.
The match between the two competitors concluded with Svitolina securing a hard-fought victory of 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) in the round of 16. Reflecting on her win, Svitolina described it as the “second-happiest moment” in her life.
The incident at Wimbledon highlights the complexities surrounding international conflicts and their spillover effects into the world of sports. Watch the video below to gain further insight into the events that unfolded on the court.
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