Tennis player Elina Svitolina called her opponent, Russian Daria Kasatkina, a “brave” after the Ukrainian’s landslide victory on Sunday.
Svitolina, who previously said she would not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents out of respect for the men and women defending Ukraine, told reporters she “acknowledged” Kasatkina after the match.
Kasatkina was outspoken in her criticism of the war, describing it as a “nightmare” last year, according to the DailyExpertNews.
Last month, Russia’s top female tennis player Kasatkina also expressed her condolences to Ukrainian tennis players who refuse to shake hands with her after matches.
“Truly grateful for the position she has taken. She is [a] really brave person to say it publicly, that not so many players did it,” said Svitolina, after advancing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“She’s a brave one.”
Instead of a handshake, Kasatkina gave her opponent a thumbs up at the net after losing match point.
“The saddest thing is that the war is still going on,” Kasatkina said last month. “So of course players from Ukraine have many reasons not to shake hands with us. I accept it and it is as it is. It is a very sad situation and I understand.”
Last year, the 26-year-old announced she is gay and also criticized Russia’s attitude to homosexuality.
Svitolina played in her first major since the 2022 Australian Open and first since becoming a mother. She said she was only focused on recovery and preparing for her next competition.
“Of course I would really like to win here,” said Svitolina. “It will be the dream, but it has always been one step at a time in my career.
“I think this is the only right thing to do, don’t look too much into the future, because otherwise you lose focus from the little things that make you win the games.”
On Tuesday, Svitolina will play against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the next round.
World No. 2 Sabalenka dropped out of the usual post-match press conferences at the tournament after saying she did not feel safe during an earlier press conference where she was questioned about her country’s involvement in the war.
Sabalenka said in March she struggled to understand the “hatred” she encountered in the dressing room amid tense relations between some players following the invasion of Ukraine – Belarus is being used as a major staging post for Russia.
“About the war situation, I have said it many, many times, nobody in this world – Russian athletes, Belarusian athletes – supports the war. No one. How can we support the war? Normal people will never support it,” she said.
Russian and Belarusian players currently still compete in the tours as neutral athletes without their flag or country being displayed.