WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Victoria Azarenka said it “wasn’t fair” that she was booed at Wimbledon after her loss to Ukrainian rival Elina Svitolina on Sunday.
Azarenka, who’s from Belarus, had just lost a third-set tiebreaker and — knowing that Svitolina does not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players after matches in protest of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — walked directly to the umpire to shake hands.
The two-time Grand Slam champion also seemed to give a slight wave to Svitolina, who won 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9).
But as she gathered her equipment and began walking off No. 1 Court — where the crowd had been rooting for Svitolina — boos rained down.
“I can’t control the crowd. I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening,” Azarenka said, suggesting the crowd had been drinking. “It wasn’t fair. It is what it is. What can I do?”
It wasn’t clear if fans thought Azarenka snubbed Svitolina, but the Belarusian shook her head as she walked off and banged her hands or fists together over her head.
At the French Open, it was the other way around for Ukrainian players. Marta Kostyuk was booed when she didn’t shake hands at the net with Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Svitolina said she was also booed in Paris.
“For me personally, I think the tennis organizations, they have to come out with a statement that there will be no handshake between Russian, Belarusian, and Ukrainian players,” Svitolina said. “I don’t know if it’s maybe not clear for people. Some people not really know what is happening. So I think this is the right way to do.”
The 33-year-old Azarenka, who moved from Belarus to the United States as a teenager, said she’s always had a good relationship with Svitolina.
“But what can I say about the crowd? There is nothing to say,” Azarenka said. “She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited? Like, I mean, there’s no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision.”