'Wimbledon crowd did not understand' – Ukraine tennis chief not worried by handshake controversy

By Sports Desk July 20, 2023

Ukraine Tennis Federation (UTF) chief executive Evgeniy Zukin sees no issue with Ukrainian players refusing to shake hands with Russian or Belarusian opponents.

The Wimbledon crowd booed Victoria Azarenka when she did not shake Elina Svitolina's hand on Centre Court earlier this month.

It left Belarusian Azarenka bemused, as she was respecting the wishes of Ukraine's Svitolina.

While Zukin was disappointed to see that reaction from the crowd, he also stressed there are more important matters at play than players not shaking hands after a match.

Zukin told Stats Perform: "It's really hard to explain to everyone in a 10,000-seater court what’s going on, what kind of conflict is happening and how everything is connected.

"I was at that match and I didn’t like how the crowd reacted but it clearly shows they don't understand. But if they would like to know, they would know.

"Any kind of statement from the tournament or the WTA, you cannot be sure everybody understands or everybody gets the message – it's just a strange situation.

"We were living in a strange time of COVID but it's nothing compared to this. I don't see it as a big problem that not everyone understands what's going on.

"Whatever the player's position – you cannot make exceptions in this case, because we’re in a war with Russia and Belarus.

"We didn't start it and simply it's not going to be comprehended by the Ukrainian society if our players shook hands with their opponents.

"Some spectators may not like it but this is how things are. We have so many worse things going on than this no-handshake thing. We are spending too much time on things that don't matter too much."

Zukin and the UTF do not believe Russian or Belarusian athletes should be allowed to compete amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Indeed, heading towards the Paris Olympics next gear, Zukin believes Ukraine will boycott the competition should Belarusian and Russians be allowed to feature, even under a neutral banner.

"We don't think it's fair that during the war, Russians or Belarusians are accepted in any way or any kind to the Olympics," he said.

"We know they are funded by their state, they are not neutral. Any success by a Russian or Belarusian athlete will be used by Russian propaganda to show their superiority and we're absolutely against them taking part until the war is over.

"Maybe if the war is over before the Olympics, this position changes. But when people are dying every day, it's not normal. When you attack one of the countries in Europe and you're playing sports, it's normal?

"We have the same position on this: they shouldn't play while the war goes on. It's going to be the IOC's [International Olympic Committee] decision whether to allow them to compete then the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee will have its decision about participating or not at the Paris Olympics."

Asked if he would be disappointed for Ukrainian tennis players should the nation choose to boycott the Games, Zukin added: "It's going to be taken out of our hands and their hands as it's the Olympic Committee who endorses all of the applications.

"In case it makes a decision not to send a team, then it's impossible to send just tennis players. We completely respect this. Russia and Belarus are banned from all tennis team events, their membership from the ITF is suspended.

"The Olympics is a team competition so it would not be normal to let them compete there. Of course it's the NOC's decision but the chances are really low that Ukraine would participate if Russia and Belarus participate."

Related items

  • Emma Raducanu’s run at Stuttgart Open ended by world number one Iga Swiatek Emma Raducanu’s run at Stuttgart Open ended by world number one Iga Swiatek

    Emma Raducanu’s progress in the Stuttgart Open was halted in straight sets by world number one Iga Swiatek.

    The Polish four-time grand slam champion, in her 100th week on top of the ATP world rankings, prevailed 7-6 (2) 6-3 to set up a semi-final showdown with Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina.

    It was, however, an encouraging quarter-final performance from Raducanu, who has slipped to 303 in the world rankings after a torrid 2023.

    Raducanu came in to the contest on a high after winning four matches in a row for the first time since her US Open title in 2021 and raised confidence levels were reflected in the opening exchanges.

    Several booming returns from the 21-year-old Briton turned a 0-40 deficit into an immediate break of serve, but Swiatek levelled after edging a second game that featured seven deuces.

    That see-saw battle set the tone for a marathon 70-minute opening set which produced plenty of high-quality ground strokes from both sides of the net.

    The match went with serve from that point, with Raducanu superbly holding her nerve at 5-4 and 6-5 down to force the first set to a tie-break.

    Swiatek completely dominated the tie-break though, winning the first four points before closing it out 7-2.

    Raducanu was quickly in trouble again in the second set, falling 2-0 behind and covered in clay after losing her footing on the baseline.

    She continued to fight and fended off break points in her next two service games to stay in the match.

    But Swiatek kept up the pressure to finally end Raducanu’s resistance to move in to the last four.

  • Emma Raducanu promises more after reaching Stuttgart Open quarter-finals Emma Raducanu promises more after reaching Stuttgart Open quarter-finals

    Emma Raducanu says the best is yet to come as she continued her excellent form by making it through to the quarter-final of the Stuttgart Open.

    The 2021 US Open champion beat Linda Noskova 6-0 7-5 in Germany to set up a mouth-watering last-eight tie with world number one Iga Swiatek on Friday.

    Raducanu is making her way back after a torrid 2023 but looked excellent in winning her two ties in the Billie Jean King Cup at the weekend and then followed that up by swatting home favourite Angelique Kerber aside in Wednesday’s first round.

    She stepped it up again to dispose of the world number 31 to set up a repeat of the 2022 quarter-final with Swiatek.

    Despite all her troubles since winning the US Open in 2021, Raducanu never doubted the good times would return.

    “I am not too surprised because I have been working really hard on the training court and I knew it was just a matter of time,” she said in her on-court interview.

    “This isn’t my best I still have a long way to go. I am just really happy the rewards are starting to come on the match court.

    “You know how it is when you are training day in, day out you feel like the results aren’t going your way. It is never that far away, that is something I am learning.

    “Going through everything I have been through gives you a different appreciation, there is nothing like playing in front of fans and playing good tennis.”

    Her progress will face its toughest test when against the Polish world number one, who is a master of the clay court, but the Briton knows she is not under any pressure.

    Raducanu, whose world ranking of 303 will shoot up, added: “We played here two years ago in the quarters, I have come a long way in two years, and she has achieved a lot, I have nothing to lose, I can swing and enjoy it.

    “Hopefully recover in time. I’m good.”

  • Jamaican sprinter Oblique Seville eager for clash with 100 World Champion Noah Lyles at Racers Grand Prix Jamaican sprinter Oblique Seville eager for clash with 100 World Champion Noah Lyles at Racers Grand Prix

    Jamaican sprinter Oblique Seville is gearing up for an electrifying showdown against world champion Noah Lyles at the upcoming Racers Grand Prix on June 1, setting the stage for a thrilling test of readiness ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

    Seville, who finished fourth at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest where Lyles clinched his first 100m world title, is optimistic about his chances this season, having managed to steer clear of injury thus far. Seville's coach, Glen Mills, revealed earlier this year that an injury at a crucial stage last season hindered Seville's performance in Budapest, where he clocked 9.88 seconds, narrowly missing out on a medal.

    Reflecting on his preparation for the upcoming races, Seville expressed confidence in his improved health and training regimen this season. "This year I have taken some drastic steps with regards to my injuries and injury management. I am cautious with what I'm doing so I am healthy at this point, and everything is going well," Seville explained at Tuesday's launch of the Racers Grand Prix at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston.

    Seville's recent performances, including a 47.44-second 400m and a 20.17-second 200m, demonstrate his dedication and hard work leading into this pivotal season. "The 47.44 and the 20.17 that I ran show my dedication and hard work, so it is a possibility that I can make it onto the medal podium if things work out as planned," Seville remarked.

     “Last year, I didn’t get to train the way I really wanted to but this year I got to train the way I wanted so everything is working out. I am stronger because I have got more chances training wise to do things I didn’t get the chance to do last year because of some niggles that I had.

    “I had some issues with my back and stuff which caused me not to be able to lift weights as much as I could but I got it sorted out now and I am good.”

    Looking ahead to the Racers Grand Prix, where he will face off against Lyles and training partner Zharnel Hughes, Seville expressed excitement about the opportunity to race against the world's best. "The last time I competed against Lyles was at the World Championship finals, so it's good to run with him before the Olympics to get a feel of what is to come," Seville emphasized.

    The clash between Seville, Lyles, and Hughes at the Racers Grand Prix at the National Stadium in Kingston, promises to be a thrilling preview of what's in store for the Olympic Games in Paris, as Seville aims to secure his first global medal.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.