Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina said she wasn’t sure why Belarus opponent Aryna Sabalenka was waiting at the net to shake hands after their French Open match.
With the war in her home country ongoing, Svitolina has refused to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players since returning to tennis after the birth of her first child last year.
But Sabalenka, who cruised into the semi-finals at Roland Garros 6-4 6-4 on Tuesday, waited at the net to acknowledge Svitolina.
“I don’t know, to be fair, what he’s waiting for [for]because my statement was quite clear about the handshake,” the former world number 3 told reporters.
He added: “My initial reaction, I don’t know, was like, what are you doing? Because, yes, all my press conferences I say my position is clear. So I don’t know.”
Sabalenka faced a similar scenario against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in the first round of the French Open, when her opponent also left the court without a handshake.
After her third and fourth round matches, Sabalenka stopped participating in her usual post-match press conference, saying she did not feel safe attending last Wednesday.
However, he attended the regular press conference after the quarter-finals and said he waited at the net out of “gut instinct”.
The world number two also reaffirmed her stance against the war in Ukraine and said she had always respected the press conference format.
“I’m always open with my answers,” Sabalenka told reporters. “I really feel bad not coming here. I can not sleep. As if all those bad feelings were in my head, I couldn’t sleep.
“I feel really bad not coming here. I really respect you all. Thank you so much for coming here, for being interested in me.”
Asked if Sabalenka had inflamed the handshake situation by waiting at the net, Svitolina said: “Yes, I think so, unfortunately.”
Despite a brief absence from tennis, 28-year-old Svitolina is enjoying a strong run at the French Open having won her 17th WTA title in Strasbourg ahead of the tournament.
She managed to face Sabalenka on Court Philippe-Chatrier for most of the first set and broke early in the second as she worked her way back up.
But Sabalenka’s power play from the baseline finally overwhelmed Svitolina as she saved two breaks of service to win in straight sets.
The Australian Open champion finished with 30 winners to Svitolina’s seven and will next face Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova on Thursday for a place in the French Open final.