Belarusian Victoria Azarenka says it ‘wasn’t fair’ to be booed at Wimbledon after facing Ukrainian Elina Svitolina

Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka said “it wasn’t fair” that the Wimbledon crowd booed at the end of her fourth-round match against Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

As she has done after facing other Russian and Belarusian players, Svitolina – who won the tight contest 2-6 6-4 7-6 (11-9) – declined to shake Azarenka’s hand given the ongoing war in her home country.

Instead, Azarenka showed her appreciation towards her opponent with a hand gesture at the net before the crowd booed as she walked off the court.

“What can I say about the crowd? There is nothing to say,” the No. 19 seed told reporters after the match. “She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision.

“What should I have done? Stayed and waited? 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.

“But this conversation about shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation. So if you guys want to keep talking about it, bring it up, make it a big deal, headlines, whatever it is, keep going.

“I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or the crowd – quite a drunk crowd – booing in the end, that’s a shame. That’s probably what it is in the end of the day.”

As she left Court One and spectators started booing, Azarenka stopped, shook her head in disbelief, and then made a gesture with her hands above her head. She later said that she had “no idea” what the gesture meant.

“I can’t control the crowd,” Azaenka added. “I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening. It’s probably been a lot of Pimm’s throughout the day.”

Sunday’s thrilling, rollercoaster match was eventually settled in a final-set tiebreak with Svitolina closing out the contest with an ace.

The world No. 76 has enjoyed a superb return to tennis this year following the birth of her daughter last October.

She reached the quarterfinals of the French Open last month and will now face top seed Iga Świątek in the final eight at Wimbledon having received a wild card for the tournament.

“I think, after giving birth to our daughter, this is the second happiest moment in my life,” Svitolina said with a laugh during her on-court interview.

“It was an extremely tough match and when I was 0-2 down in the second set, I heard you guys cheering for me and I almost wanted to cry.”

After falling behind early in the second set, Svitolina responded with two breaks of serve to level the match. She then took a 3-0 lead in the final set, but this time it was Azarenka who fought back and took the game to a deciding tiebreak.

This was Svitolina’s first ever victory against Azarenka after five previous defeats and marks just the second time in her career that she has reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

When asked about the crowd’s reaction at the end of the match, she said: “I got the same in Paris [at the French Open]. I played three matches in Paris in this way. Today as well.

“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. I don’t know if it’s maybe not clear for people. Some people don’t really know what is happening. So I think this is the right way to do it.”

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