Elina Svitolina lauds ‘brave’ Russian French Open opponent

Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine called Daria Kasatkina, who will face her in the round of 16 at the French Open, “brave” for being the most outspoken Russian player in expressing opposition to the continuing war.

After overcoming Russia’s Anna Blinkova 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Friday in her first Grand Slam match after giving birth, Svitolina will take on Kasatkina for a spot in the quarterfinals on Sunday at Roland Garros.

As she did when she defeated Blinkova in the Strasbourg final last weekend, Svitolina once more declined to shake hands with the opponent.

Kasatkina has previously endorsed the British tennis officials’ intention to allocate two hotel rooms to every Ukrainian player for the duration of the next grass court season, which will peak at Wimbledon.

“I’m thankful to Dasha for taking this position. That’s what you expect from others, as well. It’s really brave from her,” said Svitolina.

Kasatkina has also supported the players from Ukraine’s choice to forego shaking hands with Russian and Belarusian counterparts.

Ukrainian players have been jeered at the French Open for failing to observe the sporting tradition of the post-match handshake.

However, Svitolina has defended her choice saying that she has to show solidarity with those fighting for her country.

“Can you imagine the guy or a girl who is right now in the front line, looking at me and I’m acting like nothing is happening,” said Svitolina as she explained the decision not to shake hands.

“I’m representing my country. I have a voice. I’m standing with Ukraine. What the Russian government, Russian soldiers are doing on our land is really, really terrible.”

She added: “So that’s why it follows. We are Ukrainians, we all unite for one goal, for the goal of winning this war, and we do everything what is on regarding this topic.”

In the 10th and 12th games of the finale on Friday, Svitolina, a three-time quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, served for the match getting it done at the second attempt.

She defeated Blinkova, who had previously eliminated fifth-ranked Caroline Garcia, on a third match point with a crushing backhand winner.

“I wasn’t moving well in the first set but I tried to fight and find my game,” said Svitolina after the contest.

“After the first set, I was playing better and better and just tried to give everything.

“I played well under pressure and just decided to leave everything out there.”

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