Wimbledon 2023: Azarenka booed off court over hand-shake snub

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Belarus´ Victoria Azarenka is pictured during her women´s singles tennis match against China´s Yuan Yue, on the first day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2023.—AFP
Belarus´ Victoria Azarenka is pictured during her women´s singles tennis match against China´s Yuan Yue, on the first day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 3, 2023.—AFP 

Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka expressed her disappointment and disbelief at being booed off the court by Wimbledon fans after a thrilling match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina. 

Azarenka, known for her sportsmanship, found herself on the receiving end of the crowd’s disapproval when she respected Svitolina’s decision not to shake hands with Russians or Belarusians due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Despite the thunderous vocal support from the Wimbledon crowd, wildcard entrant Svitolina emerged victorious with a remarkable 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (11-9) win, securing her place in the quarter-finals. As Svitolina celebrated her victory, Azarenka gave a respectful wave, but the Ukrainian player did not respond. However, the scene took an unexpected turn when Azarenka was met with jeers from the crowd as she left Court One.

Azarenka, reflecting on the incident, questioned what she could have done differently and expressed her respect for Svitolina’s decision not to shake hands. She expressed her disappointment at the crowd’s reaction, making a gesture in response before leaving the court.

Svitolina, in response to the hostile reaction from the British crowd, admitted she couldn’t fully explain the crowd’s response. She highlighted that players who do not shake hands after a match are often subjected to boos. Svitolina called for tennis organizations to issue a statement clarifying that there will be no handshakes between Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian players until the conflict in Ukraine is resolved.

The reaction towards Azarenka marked a remarkable and unfortunate end to an intense match. Azarenka hoped that people would focus more on the quality of the tennis displayed by both players rather than dwelling on the handshake or the behaviour of the crowd. She emphasized that tennis matches are a part of their job and should not be blown out of proportion.

The incident at Wimbledon serves as a reminder of the complexities and sensitivities surrounding geopolitical conflicts and sportsmanship on the tennis court. It highlights the need for clear guidelines and communication from tennis organizations to ensure a respectful and harmonious environment for players and spectators alike.

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