Will Elina Svitolina shake hands with Russian-born Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon amid Ukraine’s stance against Russians? All you need to know

Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan and Elina Svitolina are slated to square off against each other in a tantalizing quarterfinal clash at the 2024 Wimbledon Championships. There were doubts about whether or not Svitolina would do a customary handshake with her opponent owing to her no-handshake stance amidst the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

However, in the post-match conference after her fourth-round win against Wang Xinyu on Monday, Svitolina said that she would shake hands with Elena Rybakina at the end of the match.

“Well she changed her nationality so it means that she doesn’t want to represent her original country so it works,” Svitolina said.

It is important to note that Rybakina is a Russian National by birth. The World No. 4 was born in Moscow and was enrolled in the Spartak Tennis Club. In June 2018, however, she changed her nationality to Kazakhstan.

This is the second time Elina Svitolina will face Elena Rybakina in Grand Slams this year. The pair met at the French Open this year in the fourth round, which Rybakina won the match in straight sets.However, what caught attention was that Svitolina shook hands with Rybakina at the net after the match, as is the long-standing tennis custom.

Svitolina has been vocal about the Ukraine War since the start

Elina Svitolina stated that she was inspired by the no-handshake policy adopted by the Ukrainian government during meetings with Russian officials. Svitolina affirmed that she was showing her support for her country by refusing to shake hands with her Belarusian and Russian opponents. During a post-match press conference at the French Open last year, she said,

Well, you know, it started, you know, with the government, Ukrainian government, that went, you know, to the meetings also with the Russian government. They were against shaking the hands because they’re not sharing the same values, obviously, and what it’s doing, what the Russians doing to our country,…So that’s why it follows,” Svitolina said.

“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, you know. So I’m Ukrainian. I’m standing for my country. I’m doing everything possible in the way to support, to give a good spirit for the men, for the women who are right now in the front line who are fighting for our land, for our country,” she added.

During her fourth-round clash against Wang Xinyu in the 2024 Wimbledon Championships, Svitolina expressed her grief after the Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Ukraine was destroyed by Russian offensives in the war. After her fourth-round match at Wimbledon, Svitolina condemned Russian attacks on her home country, mentioning that this year’s Wimbledon was hardest for her. Posting on her Instagram account, she wrote,

“Today was one of the most difficult matches in my life, mentally it was beyond anything I have ever faced but fails in comparison to what my people at home are going through. Wimbledon has become black for me today. All my love and thoughts are with Ukraine and our Ukrainian people,” Svitolina wrote.

Svitolina has refused to shake the hands of prominent players like Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka as part of her protest last year.

Rybakina changed her Russian Nationality in 2018

Elena Rybakina began her tennis career as a Russian player. However, the World No. 4 was skeptical about the opportunities she would receive as a tennis player in Russia.Despite receiving opportunities from American universities to go and pursue higher education, Rybakina declined those offers as she wanted to be a tennis player. In an interview with WTA Insider in 2020, she said,

“I had offers to universities in America, but I didn’t even think about it because I wanted to keep playing,” Rybkina said.

It was then that Rybakina accepted the offer from the Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan, which committed to providing financial and infrastructural support to help Rybakina develop her tennis skills.

“Then the Kazakhstan Federation made me an offer and the decision was easier. I changed my citizenship to Kazakhstan because they believed in me and they offered. I was not so good when they offered. So they believed in me and they’re helping me a lot,” she added.

The change of citizenship enabled Rybakina to participate in the 2022 Wimbledon Championships, as Russian players were banned from playing at the event due to the war in Ukraine. Rybakina won the tournament, beating Ons Jabeur in the final.

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