Ukrainian star Elina Svitolina praises ‘amazing’ Wimbledon crowd who booed

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Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka has claimed a Wimbledon crowd who booed her off the court were ‘drunk on Pimms’ – as her Ukrainian opponent Elina Svitolina called supporters ‘amazing’. 

Azarenka received jeers from spectators as she began to leave following her fourth-round loss, prompting her to bang her fists together in a dismissive gesture. She hit out at the ‘unfair’ behaviour at a press conference after and accused fans of being drunk. 

But giving her own reaction, Svitolina said: ‘I heard a lot of Ukrainian people in the crowd so that was really special. The crowd was amazing, it was one of the best atmospheres that I ever played in.’ 

The Ukrainian has a policy of not shaking hands with Russian or Belarusian players amid the ongoing war, and was herself booed by a crowd at the French Open for not shaking the hand of her quarter final opponent Aryna Sabalenka.   

Asked if she was surprised by the hostility directed at Azarenka yesterday, she said: ‘Each player that loses and there’s no handshake is getting a boo…. the tennis organisations have to come out with a statement that there will be no handshake. A lot people don’t know what is happening.’ 

Azarenka hit out at the 'unfair' behaviour at a press conference after and accused fans of being drunk

Azarenka hit out at the ‘unfair’ behaviour at a press conference after and accused fans of being drunk

But Svitolina said the atmosphere on Court One was 'amazing'

But Svitolina said the atmosphere on Court One was ‘amazing’ 

Azarenka appeared to make a dismissive gesture in reaction towards jeers from the Wimbledon crowd, as she banged her fists together after staring towards the stands

Azarenka appeared to make a dismissive gesture in reaction towards jeers from the Wimbledon crowd, as she banged her fists together after staring towards the stands

Questioned about whether the reaction of the crowd was ‘unfair’, she replied: ‘It was also unfair for me in Paris in the quarter final.’ 

The Wimbledon crowd had set the scene during the match as they were overwhelmingly behind Svitolina during the contest, and gave her a deafening cheer when she clinched a 2-6 6-4 7-6 (9) victory. 

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As expected, there was no handshake at the net, though there was a nod of acknowledgment between the two players with Azarenka waving towards Svitolina after the Ukrainian’s victory. 

She banged her fists together in apparent disgust at the reaction towards her, before she walked down the tunnel.

Azarenka in her post-match press conference insisted that she has done nothing wrong, blamed ‘drunk’ fans for the booing and questioned why she should wait for Svitolina when she doesn’t want to shake hands.

The 33-year-old said: ‘I feel like it’s been pretty consistent for the last 18, 19 months. I haven’t done anything wrong, but keep getting different treatment sometimes.

‘But what can I say about the crowd? There is nothing to say. She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited?

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Azarenka was booed off by the Wimbledon crowd following her fourth round exit

Azarenka was booed off by the Wimbledon crowd following her fourth round exit

Azarenka acknowledged Svitolina following her three set defeat on Sunday evening

Azarenka acknowledged Svitolina following her three set defeat on Sunday evening

‘Like, I mean, there’s no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision.

‘But this conversation about shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation. So if you guys want to keep talking about it, bring it up, make it a big deal, headlines, whatever it is, keep going.

‘I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or crowd, quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame. That’s probably what it is in the end of the day.’

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Svitolina in her own press conference said she felt tennis authorities should release a statement confirming there will be no handshake between Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian players as ‘some people don’t know what is happening’.

After saying she ‘couldn’t answer’ whether she was surprised at the hostile reaction, she added: ‘I feel like each player that loses, and there is no handshake, is getting booed.

‘I think the tennis organisations have to come out with a statement that there will be no handshake between Russian/Belarusian and Ukrainian players.

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Svitolina made it clear she won’t shake hands of Russian or Belarusian tennis players

‘I don’t know if it’s maybe unclear for people. I already said multiple times that until Russian troops are out of Ukraine and we take back our territories, not going to shake hands.

‘I have clear statement. I don’t know how more clear I can be.’

A handshake was not expected, with Svitolina not shaking hands of Russian or Belarusian athletes in recent times due to the invasion of her country,.

Svitolina was herself booed at the French Open when she refused to shake the hand of Belarusian world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka.

Svitolina was baffled by the reaction and accused her opponent of adding fuel to the fire by offering her hand at the net.

On the other hand, Russian player Daria Kasatkina – who has held a strong anti-Putin stance, simply offered a thumbs up which Svitolina admitted she respected. 

During the French Open, Svitolina explained she will not shake the hands of Russian and Belarusian opponents out of respect for Ukrainians fighting to defend their country. 

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‘It started with the Ukrainian government that went to the meetings with the Russian government,’ Svitolina said last month.

‘They (Ukraine) were against shaking 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.’

Svitolina was herself booed at the French Open when she refused to shake the hand of Belarusian world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka.

Svitolina was herself booed at the French Open when she refused to shake the hand of Belarusian world No 2 Aryna Sabalenka. 

Svitolina only returned to the tour in April after the birth of her daughter in October.

After her victory over Azarenka she said: ‘After giving birth to our daughter, this is the second fabulous moment in my life.

‘It was a really tough match. When I was 0-2 down in the second set I heard you guys cheering for me and I almost wanted to cry. I was really struggling and I really wanted to win today. You guys gave me so much strength today.’

Svitolina also drew strength from thinking of the plight of her stricken homeland, saying: ‘I was thinking back home there are lots of people that are watching and cheering for me, I know how much it means for them.

‘Any moments that they can share of happiness. I was thinking there is tough times in Ukraine and I’m here playing in front of you guys. I cannot complain, I just have to fight. And here I am, I won the match.’

Svitolina in the next round will face World No 1 Iga Swiatek with a place in the semi finals on the line. 

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