Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina describes her Russian Roland Garros rival as ‘brave’

(CNN) — The tennis player Elina Svitolina described as “brave” his rival, the Russian Daria Kasatkina, after Ukraine’s surprising victory this Sunday.

Svitolinawho had previously said he would not shake hands with his Russian and Belarusian rivals out of respect for the men and women defending Ukraine, told reporters he “recognised” Kasatkina after the match.

Kasatkina has been openly critical of the war, describing it as a “nightmare” last year, according to The New York Times.

Last month, Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked tennis player, also expressed sympathy for Ukrainian tennis players who refuse to shake her hand after matches.

“I’m very grateful for her position. She’s a very brave person to say it publicly, which not many players have done,” said Svitolina, after going on to the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, the Grand Slam also known as the French Open. France.

“He’s a brave person.”

Instead of a handshake, Kasatkina put her thumb up at the net after losing a match point.

“The saddest thing is that the war continues,” Kasatkina said last month. “So obviously the Ukrainian players have many reasons not to shake hands with us. I accept it and it is as it is. It is a very sad situation and I understand that.”

Last year, the 26-year-old announced that he was gay and also criticized Russia’s attitude towards homosexuality.

Daria Kasatkina salutes the net after losing to Svitolina.  (Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Daria Kasatkina salutes the net after losing to Svitolina. (Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

Svitolina, who is playing in her first major tournament since the 2022 Australian Open and first since becoming a mother, said she was focused only on recovering and preparing for her next match.

“Of course I’d like to win here,” said Svitolina. “It would be a dream, but in my career it has always been a step by step.

“I think the only right way to do that is not to look too far into the future, otherwise you lose focus on the little things that lead you to winning games.”

Follow Sabalenka

Svitolina will face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the next round on Tuesday.

Sabalenka, number 2 in the world, stopped participating at the tournament’s regular post-match press conferences after saying she didn’t feel safe at an earlier press conference where she was asked about her country’s involvement in the war.

Sabalenka said in March she found it hard to understand the “hatred” she encountered in the dressing room amid tense relations between some players in the wake of the Ukraine invasion. Belarus is used as a key foothold for Russia.

“About the war situation, I’ve said it many, many times, nobody in this world – Russian athletes, Belarusians – supports the war. Nobody. How can we support the war? Normal people will never support it,” he said.

Currently, Russian and Belarusian players continue to compete on tours as neutral athletes, not displaying their flag or country.

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