Svitolina Explains Reasons For Not Shaking Hands With Russian Opponent At Roland Garros

Svitolina Explains Reasons For Not Shaking Hands With Russian Opponent At Roland Garros

by Zachary Wimer

Elina Svitolina's match against Anna Blinkova during the third round of the 2023 Roland Garros ended without a handshake.

Despite an incredible performance from the Ukrainian who won already her eighth consecutive match on the WTA Tour, the 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory was not the main story for some of the fans after the match.

Instead, it was Svitolina's decision to forego the customary post-match handshake, something her Ukrainian compatriot, Marta Kostyuk, had also decided against earlier in the tournament when she met Aryna Sabalenka to a chorus of boos from the French crowd. It's a departure from the norm that stirred intrigue in an already politically tense atmosphere.

Svitolina's refusal to shake hands, she later clarified, was a conscious act to demonstrate solidarity with her homeland, Ukraine. She drew parallels between her actions on the tennis court and the Ukrainian government's stance in ongoing conflicts with Russia. Her decision, she explained, was motivated by her country's fight for sovereignty and her commitment to supporting it.

"Well, you know, it started, you know, with the government, Ukrainian government, that went, you know, to the meetings also with the Russian government. They were against shaking the hands because they're not sharing the same values, obviously, and what it's doing, what the Russians doing to our country."

Her words are indicative of a deep sense of national pride and her obligation to use her global platform to express it. She argued that maintaining neutrality or 'acting like nothing is happening' was not an option given the harsh realities her country is facing.

"So that's why it follows. We are Ukrainians, we all unite for one goal, for the goal of winning this war, and we do everything what is on regarding this topic, you know. So I'm Ukrainian. I'm standing for my country. I'm doing everything possible in the way to support, to give a good spirit for the men, for the women who are right now in the front line who are fighting for our land, for our country."

Svitolina herself is trying to help as she has donated all of her prize money from her recent triumph to Ukraine, and the Ukrainian plans to donate also prize money earned at the 2023 Roland Garros.

"So can you imagine the guy or a girl who is right now in a front line, you know, looking at me and I'm, like, acting like nothing is happening. I'm representing my country. I have a voice. I'm standing with Ukraine. I'm standing, I have my position in this war. What is Russian government or Russian soldiers are doing on our land is really, really terrible."

Svitolina expressed her deep concern for those on the front lines in Ukraine, mentioning both men and women who are fighting for their homeland. She echoed the sentiment of many of her compatriots who view the actions of the Russian government and its soldiers on Ukrainian soil as 'terrible'.

"For us, it's just our position in this, and it touches many different areas. It touches sport, it touches acting, it touches all different areas. So, you know, we are all united, Ukrainians. And this is our position."


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