Russian Daria Kasatkina was snubbed at the net after downing Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko at the Madrid Open on Monday morning.
There was high drama after Kasatkina’s 6-4, 6-2 victory with Tsurenko quickly walking to her chair after shaking hands with the umpire before the Russian was even able to meet her at the net.
Kasatkina, Russia’s top-ranked female player, has previously been widely praised for speaking critically about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Watch Tennis Live with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. Live Coverage of ATP + WTA Tour Tournaments including Every Finals Match. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now >
She said after the match she had no issue with Tsurenko avoiding a hand shake.
After thanking the chair umpire, Kasatkina appeared to offer a friendly wave towards Tsurenko, who appeared to appreciate the gesture.
“Well, the saddest part is the war still going on,” Kasatkina said when asked about the moment.
“So, of course, players from Ukraine, they’ve got a lot of reasons to not shake our hands. I accept it and it is how it is. It’s a very sad situation and I understand. I was actually happy that she waved me back. I’m already happy with that.”
Kasatkina has previously gone public to denounce the war and her latest comments showed genuine support for her Ukrainian colleagues on the WTA Tour.
The 25-year-old said she supports the decision by Wimbledon’s governing body, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), to introduce measures to help Ukrainian players prepare for the All England Club grand slam this year.
Kasatkina will be competing at Wimbledon as neutral athlete without a national flag — something she has accepted without a fuss.
The frosty moment between Kasatkina and Tsurenko has been played out in similar situations on the WTA Tour and ATP Tour this year when Russian players have been drawn to play against Ukrainian players.
The now-standard practice of no handshake being exchanged does not look like ending any time soon.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Iga Swiatek claimed she had endured a “tricky” afternoon despite easing to a straight-sets win over American left-hander Bernarda Pera to reach the last 16 in Madrid.
Swiatek, warming up for the defence of her French Open title, claimed a 6-3, 6-2 win for a sixth consecutive victory on clay this season.
“I wouldn’t say it was easy. Every match is tricky here,” Swiatek said after her 75-minute outing.
“I’m happy that I’m getting my rhythm. Playing against a lefty is never easy… but I’m pretty happy that I was disciplined and focused.”
Swiatek next faces either Chinese 22nd seed Zheng Qinwen, who was the only player to take a set off her at Roland Garros last year, or 16th seed Ekaterina Alexandrova.
Also progressing to the fourth round was world number three Jessica Pegula who clinched a gruelling 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) victory over Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic.
Pegula, 29, made the final in Madrid in 2022 where she lost to Ons Jabeur. She will now tackle Italy’s Martina Trevisan on Monday for a quarter-final spot.
In the men’s draw world No. 2 and defending champion Carlos Alcaraz set up a last 16 duel with Alexander Zverev, the German rival who handed him a heartbreaking, reality-check defeat at Roland Garros last year.
Alcaraz defeated Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 7-5 in the Madrid third round as he continues his bid to win a 10th tour title before his 20th birthday.
The Spanish crowd-pleaser was briefly troubled when 31-year-old Dimitrov broke for a 4-2 lead in the second set.
However, that merely delayed the inevitable as Alcaraz wrapped up victory in 90 minutes, making just four unforced errors. It was his 25th win of 2023 against just two losses and a 15th win on clay.
— with AFP