Aryna Sabalenka pleads with crowd to stop booing – but Wimbledon won’t step in

Aryna Sabalenka has urged crowds to stop booing Russian and Belarusian players, but Wimbledon has refused to follow other authorities in telling spectators to stay quiet.



She faces Ons Jabeur in the second semi-final and said she hoped reception from the crowd at Wimbledon will improve after the Women’s Tennis Association addressed the Ukraine handshake “misunderstanding” which saw fellow Belarusian, Victoria Azarenka, heckled on Sunday.



The WTA responded to calls, led by Svitolina, to make clear why Ukrainian players would not shake hands with Russian or Belarusian rivals given Vladimir Putin’s war.



The WTA announced: “Due to the ongoing reprehensible war, the WTA respects the position of the Ukrainian athletes in foregoing the tradition of shaking opponents’ hands [from Russia and Belarus] at the end of a match, as this is a personal decision.”



That statement has been warmly welcomed by Azarenka’s Belarusian compatriot Sabalenka, who will face sixth seed Ons Jabeur in the last four after a commanding 6-2 6-4 victory over Madison Keys on Wednesday, a match in which she acknowledged the American had the crowd on her side.

“They made this statement which is really good,” Sabalenka said. “I think people also need to know what’s going on and why there is no handshake between Ukrainians, Russian, and Belarusian players. I mean, it’s good to have this statement. I really hope that nobody else will face this reaction from the crowd.”

Sabalenka had previously been confronted by a Ukrainian journalist about her perceived support of Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko. A photo shared by various news channels last month shows her apparently hugging the key Kremlin ally.


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