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Victoria Azarenka blames ‘quite drunk’ fans for boos at Wimbledon after defeat to Elina Svitolina

The Belarusian No 2 was angry that she was booed off No 1 Court by fans who did not ‘understand’ why she and Svitolina had not shaken hands

WIMBLEDON — Victoria Azarenka says she was unfairly treated by “quite drunk” Wimbledon fans who booed her off No 1 Court after defeat to Elina Svitolina.

In the first Wimbledon clash between a Ukrainian and a player from Belarus or Russia since the invasion of Ukraine, a partisan crowd roared Svitolina to victory in a dramatic deciding tie-break, which was required to separate the pair after nearly three hours of high-quality tennis.

Svitolina did not shake hands with Azarenka, a continuation of a policy all Ukrainian players have held on not shaking hands with opponents from the two countries.

The Belarusian did raise her hand in acknowledgement but it appeared the SW19 crowd thought she had in fact refused to congratulate Svitolina – and booed her off the court.

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

“I feel like it’s been pretty consistent for the last 18, 19 months. I haven’t done anything wrong, but keep getting different treatment sometimes.

“But what can I say about the crowd? There is nothing to say. She [Svitolina] doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision.

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

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

“It was a tennis match. We are here, tennis match. Nobody’s changing lives here. We are playing tennis. We’re doing our jobs. That’s it.”

Svitolina meanwhile was given a rapturous ovation from start to finish, with blue-and-gold flags and cries of “Slava Ukraini” (meaning “Glory to Ukraine”) noticeable throughout.

But she said that she had been booed in Paris for failing to shake hands with Aryna Sabalenka, and called on tennis authorities to make more of an effort to educate fans.

“Each player that loses, and there is no handshake, is getting booed, I feel like,” Svitolina said.

“So I don’t know. If today would be a different reaction if I would lose, I don’t know.

“[But] I heard a lot of Ukrainian people actually in the cloud. This was really special.

“And the crowd was amazing, was really unbelievable feeling. I think one of the best atmospheres that I ever played.”

She added: “The tennis organisations 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 not really know what is happening. So I think this is the right way to do.”

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