Svitolina accuses Sabalenka of 'inflaming' tensions with net stand-off
Elina Svitolina accused Aryna Sabalenka of deliberately "inflaming" the tense stand-off between Ukraine and Belarus players at the French Open on Tuesday by staring her down at the net.
Sabalenka won their quarter-final 6-4, 6-4 and then approached the net in expectation of a handshake which Svitolina had already insisted she was not going to offer.
All Ukraine players refuse to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian rivals in protest at the ongoing war.
Svitolina was as good as her word, ignoring the world number two, who was leaning on the net, and calmly walked back to her chair.
Svitolina, however, was booed by the Court Philippe Chatrier crowd.
When asked if Sabalenka had inflamed the situation by standing at the net, Svitolina replied: "Yeah, I think so, unfortunately."
"I don't know why she was waiting, because my statements were clear enough about the handshake," added Svitolina, 28, who said she was not shocked by being jeered by a Paris crowd who had taken her to their hearts following her marriage to French player Gael Monfils.
"I was expecting that. Whoever in this situation loses, I guess, gets booed, so I was expecting that. It was not a surprise for me."
When she saw Sabalenka coming into the net on Tuesday, she thought: "What are you doing? I made my position clear."
Sabalenka had defeated another Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in the first round. Kostyuk also refused to shake hands and she too was booed.
"Maybe she's (Sabalenka) not on social media during the tournament, but it is pretty clear. She played Marta as well the first round. So is quite simple."
Svitolina said she and her compatriots will continue their stance in the grass court season which culminates in Wimbledon next month.
"I won't sell my country for the likes of people," she said.
Svitolina said Sabalenka should also be fined for refusing to attend two mandatory press conferences following her third and fourth round matches.
Two years ago, former world number one Naomi Osaka was fined $15,000 for not honouring her French Open media commitments.
Sabalenka said she boycotted her media duties because she didn't feel "safe" in an atmosphere where she faced a barrage of questions over the war and her links to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Belarus is a close ally of Moscow.
"It should be equal for everyone. For example, Naomi got fined last time and this time there is no fine for the player, who also skips the press conference," said Svitolina.
"I faced difficulties, I faced difficulty also with the question about Novak, about his statement about Kosovo. So I'm not escaping.
"I have my strong position, and I'm vocal about that. I'm not going try to win likeness of the people by betraying my strong belief and strongest position for my country."