Fans warned no shake for Svitolina, Azarenka

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WASHINGTON — Spectators at the DC Open were told before Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina faced Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka that the players would not shake hands following their first-round match Monday night.

During the war in Ukraine, Svitolina — like several other players from her country — has declined to participate in the usual meeting at the net with opponents from Russia or Belarus. Russia invaded Ukraine with the help of Belarus in February 2022, and fighting continues.

At other recent tournaments, some fans — seemingly unaware of the background — booed Ukrainian players for not participating in the customary handshake. After losing to Svitolina at Wimbledon, Azarenka was jeered loudly for not going up to the net herself, even though she did so because she knew Svitolina would not want to shake hands.

Svitolina said at the time that she thought it would make sense for tournaments to start informing fans about the situation; the All England Club said it would not do that.

But Svitolina said she was assured by WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon that there would be a message delivered to the crowd in Washington before her match against Azarenka — and there was.

The scoreboards read: “At the conclusion of the match, there will be no handshake between the players. We appreciate your respect for both athletes during and following the match, and for your understanding during these difficult circumstances.”

The message was shown after the first set, too.

The WTA has not yet decided whether to tell all tournaments to post a similar message before any match involving a player from Ukraine against one from Russia or Belarus.

In earlier action on Day 1 at the first combined ATP-WTA 500 event, defending champion Liudmila Samsonova stretched her winning streak in Washington to six matches by beating 2022 Australian Open finalist Danielle Collins 6-1, 6-3.

The eighth-seeded Samsonova saved both break points she faced while winning four of Collins’ service games. Collins hurt herself by double-faulting eight times.

Samsonova is a 24-year-old from Russia who is currently ranked 18th. Her trophy on the hard courts of the US Open tune-up tournament a year ago was one of four singles titles she’s won.

In other women’s matches, Lauren Davis eliminated 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-1, sixth-seeded Belinda Bencic advanced when Anastasia Potapova retired in the first set with an injured left ankle, and Marta Kostyuk beat 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

In men’s action, Mackenzie McDonald eliminated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, Aslan Karatsev beat Kiranpal Pannu 7-6 (3), 6-1, Alexander Shevchenko defeated Maxime Cressy 6-3, 7-6 (8), Michael Mmoh beat Bradley Klahn 6-3, 6-3, and Yosuke Watanuki moved into the second round when Wu Yibing stopped playing because of illness.

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