Aryna Sabalenka defeats Elina Svitolina in a geopolitical-sounding match

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (right) waits at the net as Ukraine's Elina Svitolina leaves the court without shaking hands with her opponent at the end of their French Open quarter-final match on June 6, 2023.

On one side of the Philippe-Chatrier court, the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, world number 2, winner of the last edition of the Australian Open. On the other, the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, ex-world number 3 back down to 192e place – the young mother makes a winning return to Paris seven months after giving birth.

And it is the best ranked who made her power speak to win, in two sets (6-4, 6-4), this quarter-final of Roland-Garros, Tuesday June 6. As expected, Elina Svitolina refused to shake his hand at the end of this meeting with strong geopolitical overtones.

Since February 24, 2022 and the start of the Russian invasion, commanded by President Vladimir Putin with the support of his Belarusian ally, Alexander Lukashenko, Ukraine has been a country at war. Unlike other sports federations, and with the exception of the 2022 edition of the Wimbledon tournament, international tennis authorities have continued to authorize Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, but under a neutral banner.

Read also: Aryna Sabalenka, overpowered, erases Elina Svitolina and goes to the semi-finals

While former Ukrainian tennis players like Sergiy Stakhovsky (31e at the height of his career) have decided to take up arms in their country, those who remain on the circuit have decided not to salute their Russian or Belarusian counterparts.

For Elina Svitolina, it has become a habit since the start of her career at the French Open. Already in the previous rounds, in the sixteenth then in the round of 16, the native of Odessa had not shaken hands with her Russian opponents. “I represent my country”she explained at a press conference after her victory against Anna Blinkova, Friday, June 2.

“I do everything I can to support, to encourage the men and women who are currently on the front line and who are fighting for our land, for our country. Imagine the guy or the girl who is currently on the front line, who would look at me and me who acts as if nothing had happened (…) We Ukrainians all stand together. And that’s our position. »

Read also on the issue of the reintegration of Russian athletes: Article reserved for our subscribers Tennis, a “model” under tension

Two days later, the Ukrainian didn’t shake hands with Daria Kasatkina either, but the two players greeted each other from afar. Among her many compatriots on the circuit, the Russian, world number 9, distinguished herself by taking an open position against the war and showing her support for Ukrainian athletes. “I am very grateful to him. He is a very brave person who spoke out publicly, which few players [russes et biélorusses] did “said Elina Svitolina at a press conference.

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