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Sabalenka wants shield from ‘hate’ after Azarenka booing

LONDON: Women's tennis chiefs on Monday pleaded with spectators to show “understanding and respect” when Ukraine players refuse to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents in protest at the ongoing war in their country.

The WTA, which runs the women's game, became the first governing body to acknowledge demands that they publicly explain the reasons for the stance.

Earlier on Monday, Aryna Sabalenka backed Elina Svitolina's call for officials to respond to help shield players from “so much hate.”

STOP THE HATE Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka serves the ball to Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova during their women’s singles tennis match on the eighth day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Monday, July 10, 2023. PHOTO BY SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP

Victoria Azarenka, from Belarus, was booed off court following her defeat by Ukraine's Svitolina at Wimbledon on Sunday.

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 Russians and Belarusians 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.”

Belarusian second seed Sabalenka, who beat Russia's Ekaterina Alexandrova on Monday to reach the quarterfinals, backed Svitolina's call.

“As Elina said, I think someone has to come out on social media with the announcement that there is not going to be a handshake so players will not leave the court with so much hate,” she said.

“It would be good for the crowd to actually know what's going on. There is a reason behind no handshake.”

Hours later the WTA, describing the war as “reprehensible,” said they respected the position of the Ukrainian players as it is a “personal decision.”

“We have some of the best fans in the world and are grateful for their passion and dedication, and we thank them for their understanding and respect for the athletes,” they said in a statement.

Men's third seed Daniil Medvedev said it was a “pity” that Azarenka was booed.

The Russian added: “I think the people didn't know the story behind it, and that's why it happened.”

Personal decision

All England Club chief executive Sally Bolton said Wimbledon had no plans to issue 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 center stage.

There are four players in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon who are representing Russia or Belarus, a year after athletes from the two nations were banned by the All England Club.

Alcaraz strikes back

Meanwhile, Carlos Alcaraz saw off dangerman Matteo Berrettini in four sets to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time but said he was “hungry for more.”

Berrettini, a finalist in 2021, won the first set but the top seed roared back to win the Centre Court match-up 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3.

Top-ranked Alcaraz is seen as one of the few genuine threats to defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has not lost a match on Centre Court for 10 years.

But he was given a wake-up call by the 38th-ranked Italian at the showpiece arena, losing the first set after being broken in the eighth game.

The Spaniard, 20, forged a break of his own in the fourth game of the second set, which enabled him to get back on level terms.

A double break in the third set put him in control and he broke again in the eighth game of the fourth set.

He sealed victory when Berrettini, forced to miss last year's Wimbledon after testing positive for Covid, went wide with a backhand.

Alcaraz has little experience on grass in his short career but won last month's tournament at Queen's to set himself up for a tilt at the Wimbledon title.

“I really wanted to play the quarterfinal here, coming this year with that goal,” said the US Open champion, who reached the fourth round at the All England Club last year.

“It's my dream to play a final here, to win this title one day, so I hope to reach that dream this year but right now it's great to be in the quarterfinals.”

Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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