Elina Svitolina calls Russian Daria Kasatkina ‘brave’ following upset win at French Open
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 that she “acknowledged” Kasatkina after the match.
Kasatkina has been outspoken in her criticism of the war, describing it last year as a “nightmare,” according to the New York Times.
Last month, Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked female tennis player, also expressed her sympathy for Ukrainian tennis players who refuse to shake her hand after matches.
“Really thankful for her position that she took. She’s [a] really brave person to say it publicly, that not so many players did,” Svitolina said, after advancing to the quarterfinals of the French Open.
“She’s a brave one.”
Instead of a hand shake, Kasatkina gave her opponent a thumbs up at the net after losing match point.
“The saddest part is the war still going on,” Kasatkina said last month. “So of course, players from Ukraine have got a lot of reasons to not shake our hands. I accept it and it is how it is. It’s a very sad situation and I understand.”
Last year, the 26-year-old announced she was gay and also criticized Russia’s attitudes towards homosexuality.
Playing in her first major since the 2022 Australian Open and first since becoming a mother, Svitolina said she was just focused on recovery and preparing for her next match.
“Of course I would love to win here,” Svitolina said. “It will be the dream, but it’s always been in my career like step by step.
“I think this is the only right way to do, to not look too much into the future, because otherwise you lose your focus from the small things that brings you to win the matches.”
Svitolina will play Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the next round on Tuesday.
World No. 2 Sabalenka stopped participating in customary post-match press conferences at the tournament after saying she didn’t feel safe at a previous press conference where she was questioned about her country’s involvement in the war.
Sabalenka said in March that she struggled to understand the “hate” she encountered in the locker room amid strained relations between some players following the invasion of Ukraine – Belarus is being used as a key staging ground for Russia.
“About the war situation, I said it many, many times, nobody in this world – Russian athletes, Belarusian athletes – supports the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Normal people will never support it,” she said.
Russian and Belarusian players are currently still competing on the tours as neutral athletes without their flag or country displayed.