Tennis: Wimbledon says no plans to issue statement after Azarenka booing

AFP , Monday 10 Jul 2023

Wimbledon chiefs said Monday they have no plans to issue a statement after Belarusia's Victoria Azarenka was booed off court following her defeat by Ukraine's Elina Svitolina.

Belgium s Kirsten Flipkens (L), playing with Hungary s Timea Babos, returns the ball to France s Caroline Garcia and Brazil s Luisa Stefani, during their women s doubles tennis match on the eighth day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 10, 2023. AFP

Svitolina won a gripping three-set match on Court One late Sunday to set up a quarter-final clash with world number one Iga Swiatek.

As has become common, Svitolina did not shake hands with Azarenka in protest over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus is a key military ally of Moscow.

Azarenka, who held her hand up in the direction of Svitolina, seemingly in a gesture of respect, left the court to a chorus of boos from some sections of the crowd.

The two-time Australian Open champion said her treatment "wasn't fair".

"I thought it was a great tennis match," she added. "If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or the crowd, quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that's a shame."

Svitolina and her fellow Ukraine players all refused to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian rivals at the recent French Open.

She called on the sport's governing bodies to explain the position of Ukraine players.

"I don't know if it's maybe not clear for people, some people not really knowing what is happening," she said. "So I think this is the right (thing) to do."

But All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said on Monday that Wimbledon had no plans to issue such a statement.

"Historically in tennis the decision on how a player reacts at the end of a match is entirely a personal decision for them and I think we don't really want to start mandating what happens," she said.

"I think we have an incredibly knowledgeable audience at Wimbledon and I think in most part they would understand what was happening."

She admitted it is impossible to control the crowd, calling for the sporting action to be centre stage.

"Having witnessed one of the most incredible matches on Number One Court, to an absolutely rapt audience, we should be focusing on the tennis and the match that we saw, not all the other stuff that went on," she said.

There could be five players in the quarter-finals who are representing Russia or Belarus, a year after athletes from the two nations were banned by the All England Club.

Bolton was asked how tournament organisers would feel about handing the trophy to a player from one of the two nations.

"When we made the decision earlier this year to admit Russians and Belarusians we thought really carefully about all of those things and having made the decision to admit them, we are comfortable about how that plays out," she said.

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