After her unexpected victory on Sunday, Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina referred to her opponent, Daria Kasatkina from Russia, as a “courageous individual.”
Svitolina, who had previously stated that she would not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents as a sign of respect for the soldiers defending Ukraine, informed reporters that she “recognized” Kasatkina following their match.
According to the New York Times, Kasatkina has openly expressed her disapproval of the war, referring to it as a “nightmare” last year.
In the previous month, Kasatkina, the highest-ranked female tennis player in Russia, showed her understanding for Ukrainian tennis players who choose not to shake her hand following matches.
Svitolina expressed gratitude for the stance she took, commending her bravery in publicly speaking out, a move that few other players have made. She made these comments after progressing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“She is a courageous individual.”
Instead of shaking hands, Kasatkina showed her opponent a thumbs up at the net following her 6-4 7-6 (7-5) loss. She expressed her disappointment at hearing boos from certain audience members.
“I am departing Paris with a deep sense of disappointment. Throughout these days, after each match I have played in Paris, I have consistently expressed my gratitude to 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 displayed mutual respect after a challenging game, but the way we left the court was the most disappointing aspect of yesterday. Let’s strive to improve and show love for one another instead of spreading hate. Together, let’s work towards making this world a better place.
Kasatkina, who publicly announced her homosexuality last year and condemned Russia’s views on it, continues to stand against the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“It’s heartbreaking that the war is still ongoing,” expressed the 26-year-old in a statement last month. “Therefore, it’s understandable that players from Ukraine may have reasons to refuse shaking our hands. I accept it and the situation remains unchanged. It’s truly a sorrowful situation and I empathize with it.”
Svitolina, who is playing in her first major tournament since the 2022 Australian Open and since becoming a mother, stated that her main focus is on recuperation and getting ready for her upcoming match.
Svitolina expressed her desire to win here, stating that it would be a dream come true. However, she acknowledges that in her career, progress has always been made 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 details that lead to winning matches.”
Svitolina is slated to face Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka in the upcoming match on Tuesday.
Aryna Sabalenka, ranked second in the world, has decided to no longer attend the usual post-match press conferences at the tournament. This decision comes after she expressed concerns about her safety during a previous press conference where she was asked about her country’s role in a war.
In March, Sabalenka expressed her difficulty in comprehending the animosity she faced from other players in the locker room. This tension arose due to strained relations amongst players following the invasion of Ukraine, with Belarus serving as a crucial location for Russia’s actions.
She stated that she has repeatedly mentioned that neither Russian athletes nor Belarusian athletes support the war. It is impossible for anyone to support the war. Regular individuals would never show support for it.
Currently, players from Russia and Belarus are competing on tours as neutral athletes, without their national flag or country represented.