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Stunned Ukrainian French Open star accuses Belarusian Sabalenka of ‘inflaming tensions’

Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina has given her reasons for snubbing Aryna Sabalenka after her defeat to the Belarusian as tensions continue to rise at the French Open.



Elina Svitolina has accused Aryna Sabalenka of inflaming tensions after their French Open quarter-finals by waiting at the net for a handshake and said she expected to be booed by the French crowd for refusing. The Ukrainian was beaten 6-4 6-4 by the Belarusian world No 2 as Sabalenka continued her impressive winning streak of 12 matches at Majors and she refused to shake hands after Sabalenka approached her at the net.



Svitolina has refused to shake the hands of any Russian and Belarusian players since the war in her homeland. And anti-war Russian No.1 Daria Kastkina did not offer after the last round.

But the Australian Open champion waited at the net after her win on Court Philippe-Chatrier today. When Svitolina ignored her and just hook hands with the umpire, she was booed by sections of the crowd.



“I don’t know, to be fair, what she was waiting, because my statements were clear enough about the handshake,” said Svitolina.

“My initial reaction, don’t know, was like, what are you doing (smiling)? Because, yeah, all my press conference I say my clear position. So I don’t know.



“Maybe she’s not on social media during the tournaments, but it is pretty clear. I made multiple statements that I’m not shaking hands, and she played obviously Marta as well the first round. So is quite simple, you know.



Asked about the booing, she added: “It was quite expected. I was expecting that. Whoever in this situation loses, I guess, gets booed, so I was expecting that. It was not a surprise for me.

Asked if Sabelenka’s actions had inflamed the situation, Svitolina said: “Yeah, I think so, unfortunately.”



The Belarusian did not attend press conferences after her previous two matches because she did not feel “safe”. But world No 192 Svitolina said: “I’m not escaping. I have my strong position, and I’m vocal about that. I’m not going to try to win the likeness (popularity) of the people by betraying my strong belief and strongest position for my country.”



Svitolina has accepted a wildcard to play in Birmingham before Wimbledon but she does not expect to booed in the UK. “The support that we got from UK was massive, and especially taking the case of Wimbledon last year and great support for Ukrainian people in the UK and really thankful for them to taking the position,” she said.



“But to be fair, no, I’m not really focusing on this. You know, as I mentioned before, I don’t want that everyone likes me. You know, I’m not a dollar that people are going to like me in every way.



“As I said, I have my position. I’m standing by this position. Not gonna sell my country for the likeness (popularity) of people.”

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