Tennis player ‘sorry’ for handshake with Russian opponent


One of Ukraine’s top junior tennis players was almost in the soup after she shook the hand of her Russian opponent at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Yelyzaveta Kotliar said she was “deeply sorry”.

Yelyzaveta’s tennis federation was furious after she congratulated Russian player Vlada Mincheva after beating her in the first round of the girls’ tournament.

The handshake violated an unwritten rule among Ukrainians not to congratulate their Russian and Belarusian opponents while the war raged in their homeland.

The war between Russia and Ukraine will have been going on for two years by February.

The Ukrainian tennis federation described the incident as “unpleasant” and reiterated its position that Ukrainian tennis players must not shake the sheet of “aggressor countries” representatives.

“Our main players have been informed about this and support our position,” the federation said in a statement. The federation added that what Yelyzaveta did was a “mistake”.

Yelyzaveta’s father, Konstantin, meanwhile stepped in for his daughter and said that she “didn’t think clearly in the pressure situation she was in”.

“She is only 16 years old and has no real experience of major tournaments such as a Grand Slam – the pinnacle of professional tennis and youth tennis,” he said in a statement on her behalf.

“She simply performed a post-match ritual by shaking the hand of an opponent. She did not understand that the opponent on the other side of the net is a representative of a country that attacked our homeland.

“It was definitely a mistake for which she is deeply sorry. She gave the assurance that something like this will never happen again.”

Ukrainian tennis player Dayana Yastremska (23), who beat Czech player Linda Noskova for a place in the semi-finals on Wednesday, defended Yelyzaveta when she was approached for comment on the incident.

“We Ukrainians have our position: We do not shake hands. But I think she is still a bit young and inexperienced. It can happen to anyone.

“I can’t judge her because I don’t know what was going through her mind. Was it intentional or unintentional? I do not know. But I’m sure she stands by Ukraine, and that she was just too emotional and confused.”

Another Ukrainian female player, Lesia Tsurenko, said earlier in the tournament that the refusal to shake the hands of Russian and Belarusian opponents became part of the players’ protest against Russia.

“This serves as another reminder that there is a war raging in my country…

“It’s the right thing to do and I’m doing it for Ukraine.”