The player in question is 16-year-old Yelyzaveta Kotliar from Ukraine, who faced Vlada Mincheva of Russia in the first round of the junior tournament last Saturday. Mincheva totally outplayed her opponent, winning 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 11 minutes.
But shortly after the conclusion of the match, Kotliar went up to the net to shake hands with the victor, an incident that has rocked those within the Ukrainian tennis fraternity to the core. This was a peculiar case in which one of their own deviated from a standard approach.
It has been a common occurrence for Ukrainian players on pro tour not to shake hands with opponents from Russia since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war in early 2022. It is a mark of solidarity and respect for the soldiers on the frontline, putting their lives at risk in the war.
Kotliar's controversial actions have generated fiery backlash back home, according to multiple sources on the internet. The Ministry of Youth and Sports in Ukraine has reportedly opened a case against the 16-year-old and rejected her apology, claiming it was an innocent mistake.
Russian and Belarusian players can only compete in professional tennis as neutral athletes, meaning they cannot represent their countries nor make any political affiliations in the ongoing war. This has created a lot of tension on the tennis circuits.
Ukrainian players have been very vocal and staunch in their stance regarding handshakes despite receiving mixed reactions from tennis fans for their actions.
Recently, Ukrainine's Marta Kostyuk slammed the US Open's Instagram account for publishing a graphic score from her match against Russia's Maria Timofeeva with the Russian flag together with her opponent's name. Kostyuk accused the Grand Slam social media handle of promoting "Russian peace."