Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, the topic of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes has been shaking up the backstage of world sport. And especially on the tennis planet. In September, Ukraine's Marta Kostyuka refused to shake hands with Belarusian Victoria Azarenka after losing in the 2nd round of the US Open. And many matches on the women's circuit have highlighted the impossible cohabitation between the lines, as when the Ukrainian Kostyuk beaten in the 1st round of Roland-Garros by Aryna Sabalenka refused to greet her rival. "Today, I no longer live in this world. If you asked me what my goal is in 2023, I would answer you: that my family survives the war, "she explained recently in L'Équipe.
- Roland Garros Men's Singles
- Roland Garros Women's Singles
Before Roland Garros, Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko explained to AFP her desire to see the Ukrainians dominate their Russian and Belarusian rivals: "The message before the France International that I send to all the other athletes is always the same: we must go there and beat them on all courts. It would make no sense for Ukrainian athletes to give up. What image would be returned?»
The quarter-final that will oppose, this Thursday on the Philippe Chatrier court (in 2nd match), the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the wife of Gaël Monfils who made her return to competition in April after a year of absence following the birth of her daughter to the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (No. 2 seed, winner of the last Australian Open) will find herself plunged into the heart of tensions. The two players have been pitted against each other twice (one win each, the last for Svitolina in the semifinals of the Strasbourg tournament in 2020).
Opposed to the war in Ukraine, the Russian Daria Kasatkina was copiously whistled this Sunday by the public of the Suzanne Lenglen court during her match lost against Elina Svitolina. Before turning her back on the tournament, she posted on Twitter: "I leave Paris with a very bitter feeling. Every day, after every game I've played in Paris, I've always appreciated and thanked the crowd for their support. But I was booed for simply respecting my opponent's position of not shaking his hand. Me and Elina were respectful after a tough match, but leaving the pitch like that was the worst moment of my day. Be better, love one another. Don't spread hatred. Try to make this world a better place. I would love Roland Garros no matter what, always and forever. See you next year!»
Aryna Sabalenka, after her victory in the 2nd round against her compatriot Iryna Shymanovich, and questions about her relations with President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Moscow, and her positions on the war, decided not to speak at a press conference: "I did not feel safe, she justified, before slipping: For my own mental health and well-being, I have now decided to withdraw from this situation. The tournament supports me in my decision. The first few days were not easy and now I want to focus on my tennis.»
In Stuttgart in April, Sabalenka confessed: "I certainly feel a lot of strange looks and, yes, probably hatred from some people. But now I realize that I did nothing wrong to Ukraine and I did nothing. There are people who don't like me because I was born in Belarus. It's their decision, I can't control it. It's not the best feeling to be hated by people when you haven't done anything, but that's the way it is. I have nothing to do with politics. I'm just an athlete, yes, from Belarus, and I'm just trying to do my best in my sport. I'm just trying to focus on myself.»