'My statement was clear enough...': Svitolina accuses Sabalenka of 'inflaming' French Open crowd after she was booed off
Svitolina slammed Sabalenka for her “waiting at the net” act and opined that it led the crowd to boo her off.
Elina Svitolina has been the story of 2023 French Open. Having missed her last four Grand Slams owing to the birth of her first child, Svitolina scripted a ravishing return to the sport and one her favourite surface as she made a fourth quarterfinal run at the French Open. But the script remained the same for her. Running into a dominant Aryna Sabalenka in the last-eight tie on Stade Roland Garros on Tuesday, the Ukrainian star stumbled in a straight-set defeat. But while Svitolina can only draw more inspiration from her stunning run in Paris, she would definitely want to forget the eventual end, pertaining to act from Sabalenka and the French Open crowd.
It was a highly-anticipated contest with Svitolina running into a third Russian opponent. And her stance remained clear, as it has been from all Ukrainian players, of a no handshake with players from Russia or Belarus ever since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year. Belarus' Sabalenka, meanwhile, had boycotted the press after her last two matches in French Open after being grilled about the war and her country's involvement as a staging ground for Russian weapons and troops.
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Svitolina remained true to her words. No photograph at the start of the match. There wasn't even an eye contact from her end after the match. However, Sabalenka walked straight towards the net after her 6-4, 6-4 victory, expecting a handshake from Svitolina, but the 28-year-old walked straight towards the chair umpire to shake hands before leaving the court. And soon a smattering of boos was audible from the crowd.
Speaking to the media after the match, the world no. 192 slammed Sabalenka for her “waiting at the net” act and opined that it led the crowd to boo her off.
“I don't know what she was waiting for at the net, because my statements were clear enough about the handshake. I was expecting boos, it was not a surprise for me. Did she inflame the situation in the stands with this? Unfortunately, I think so,” she said.
Before the match against Sabalenka, Svitolina, who had donated her prize money to Ukrainian children’s charities after lifting the title in Strasbourg, her first title win since 2021, had spoken about fighting for her country.
“For me when I step on the court, I just try to think about the fighting spirit that all of us Ukrainians have and how Ukrainians are fighting for their values, for their freedom in Ukraine. And me, I'm fighting here on my own frontline. I cannot be sad. I cannot be distracted in some ways. I'm just going to lose, you know. So that's why I remember when the war started, I was in Mexico in Monterrey, and I was very, very sad. I almost cried when I entered the court. I had, like, really heaviness in me," she had said.