The Wimbledon 2023 match between Elina Svitolina and Victoria Azarenka took a controversial turn as Azarenka faced heavy boos from the crowd after not shaking hands with Svitolina.
Victoria Azarenka put up a strong fight but ended up losing 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(9). She faced loud boos from the crowd after she did not shake hands with Svitolina and both players walked directly to the umpire.
Commentators confirmed that Svitolina had made it clear that she won’t be following the post-match ritual of shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The boos got intense as Azarenka gathered her equipment and started to leave the court.
Addressing the media, Azarenka expressed her dissatisfaction with the crowd’s treatment, calling it “unfair” but opted not to make a big issue of it, understanding that the audience might not be fully aware of the circumstances. Svitolina had maintained her decision of not shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the post-match interview, Azarenka mentioned that she couldn’t control the crowd, and refused to blame Svitolina for the situation, respecting her decision and doing what she thought was respectful in response.
“I can’t control the crowd. I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening. I know Elina for a very long time. I’ve always had a good relationship with her. And the circumstances, it is what it is, and that’s it.”
“I haven’t done anything wrong, but keep getting different treatment sometimes. She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited?”-Victoria Azarenka in press conference
Victoria Azarenka bypass pressure question against Ukrainian opponent at the 2024 Australian Open
Victoria Azarenka refused to respond to a question about facing added pressure while competing against a Ukrainian opponent at the 2024 Australian Open.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, it has led to Ukrainian players refraining from shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian players. In Melbourne, Azarenka a two-time Grand Slam champion, faced scrutiny due to Belarus’s involvement in supporting Russia’s invasion.
Azarenka faced a defeat against Ukrainian qualifier Dayana Yastremska in the fourth round on January 22. During a post-match conference, she was questioned about the pressure and atmosphere of playing against a Ukrainian opponent. Azarenka emphasized the positive atmosphere, enjoying her time in Australia and expressing disappointment at not advancing further in the tournament.
“The atmosphere was good. I always enjoy playing in Australia. I think it was great. The stadium is always fun. I always have so much support here. Yeah, I wish I could have played just longer here, but it wasn’t meant to be.”-Victoria Azarenka at a press conference