Belarusian tennis player Aryna Sabalenkova, right, and Elina Svitolina of Ukraine after their French Open quarterfinal match in Paris, June 6, 2023.
Paris – The second Roland Garros quarter-final between Belarusian Aryna Sabalenko and Ukrainian Elina Svitolina ended in a tense atmosphere. World number two Sabalenkova waited at the net to shake hands with her opponent twice after winning 6:4, but she lived up to her earlier words and ignored her in response to Belarus' involvement in the military invasion of Ukraine. After earning boos from some fans, she said of Sabalenka that she only fueled the whole situation. Belarus argued that it was the force of habit. She stated that she does not support the war, and neither does she currently support President Alexander Lukashenko.
The 25-year-old Sabalenkova knocked out the second representative of Ukraine at Roland Garros, before Svitolina she also defeated Marta Kostyukova in the 1st round. She also didn't shake her hand, which earned her a boo. Sabalenkova's actions surprised Svitolina, who announced her intention earlier and did not even shake hands with Russia's Darya Kasatkina after the round of 16.
“Honestly, I don't know what she was waiting for at the net. My statement was clear after all,” she said. The roar of the fans didn't surprise her, she was expecting him. But according to her, Sabalenková kept the situation alive by waiting at the net. “Yes. I think so. Unfortunately,” Svitolina added.
Sabalenková, who missed the last two press conferences due to questions on political topics, arrived among the journalists this time. She defended herself by waiting for Svitolina at the net out of habit. “I don't even know why I went there. It was an instinct like always after my matches,” she said. “But I don't think she deserves to be booed. I respect her for what she did after giving birth. It's very admirable what she's doing,” she said.
The Australian Open winner was also asked about her earlier joint photo with President Lukashenko. “We played a lot of Fed Cups in Belarus. He was at our matches and took pictures with us after the matches. At that time, there was nothing bad going on in Belarus, Ukraine or Russia,” she said. “As I have said several times: They do not support the war. I do not want my country to be involved in any conflict,” she noted. Tough question. But not supporting the war means I'm not supporting Lukashenko at this point.”
Sabalenkova has yet to drop a set at Roland Garros, winning her 12th straight Grand Slam match and 34th of the season. In the fight for the final, she will meet Karolína Muchová on Thursday.