Ukrainian tennis player Anhelina Kalinina refused to shake hands with Veronika Kudermetova, her Russian opponent, following the former’s victory in the semifinals of the Rome Masters in Italy on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after the match at Foro Italico, Rome, Kalinina said, “We didn’t shake hands because the girl is from Russia basically. It’s no secret why I didn’t shake, because this country actually attacks Ukraine.
“So yeah, this is sport, I understand, but it’s also kind of political thing. So, yeah, it has nothing personal. But in general, yes, it’s not acceptable.”
Kudermetova was asked about her relationship with Kalinina and the influence of “political overtones”, and responded, “I mean, here we’re athletes. We’re here, and we love what we do here. Doesn’t matter from which country you are. We’re athletes and that’s it. We are here to play tennis.”
Kalinina denied the idea that her opponent’s nationality influenced the topsy-turvy nature of the match, describing Kudermetova as “a top player, a very great player. It was about tennis.”
Kalinina, who came into the tournament ranked No.47 in the world compared to Kudermetova at No.12, won in three sets 7-5 5-7 6-2.
The 26-year-old Ukrainian was asked about her family, who are currently living in Kyiv, and revealed a bomb exploded near the tennis academy where her parents work. She also said her grandparents eventually moved away from Nova Kakhovka, her hometown, after an explosion near their house.
In her on-court interview after the match, Kalinina said, “For me it’s also really important for me to win every match, because you know, what Ukraine goes through, I just want to say that I really hope I give a tiny small light and maybe some positive emotions for my country.”
Kalinina will face either Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final. Rybakina was born in Russia but has represented Kazakhstan since 2018.