‘I cannot judge’: Ukraine star defends ‘confused’ teen at centre of handshake storm

Dayana Yastremska claimed a Ukrainian teenager that shook hands with her Russian opponent “just got too emotional and confused” as tensions remain high between players from both nations.

Yelyzaveta Kotliar, a 16-year-old from Ukraine, broke ranks by shaking the hand of Russia’s Vlada Mincheva after the latter won 6-2, 6-4 in their Round One encounter.

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It was a move that Kotliar’s own father, Konstantin, described as a “mistake” and one the teenager “regrets” via a statement released from the Ukrainian Tennis Federation.

Yastremska, who has been extremely in her support of Ukraine amid the ongoing conflict, pointed to Kotliar’s young age as the reason why she shook hands with her Russian rival.

“You know, Ukrainians, we have our position,” Yastremska said in her post-match press conference.

“We’re not shaking their hands. But I think she’s still a little bit young, not so experienced and it can happen with anyone.

“I cannot judge her because I don’t know what was in her head. On purpose or not on purpose, I don’t know.

“But I’m sure that she stands by Ukraine and just got too emotional and confused.”

The Ukrainian teen is under fire over the handshake.Source: FOX SPORTS


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The decision from Ukrainian players not to shake hands with those from Russia or Belarus has been a hot-button topic on the tennis circuit since the conflict began in February 2022.

Yastremska, who became the first qualifier to make the semi finals in the women’s singles since 1978, could even come up against a Russian opponent in the final four.

She awaits the winner of the quarterfinal between Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya or No. 12 seed Zheng Qinwen from China.

For Yastremska, she feels it is her “mission” to continue winning in Melbourne for Ukraine as she wrote a message of support for her home nation on the camera after beating Linda Noskova in the quarterfinals.

“If you understood what I wrote, it was about the Ukrainian fighters, that I’m very proud of them,” Yastremska said.

“They really deserve huge respect and I always try to write something for Ukraine, about Ukraine.

“I think it’s my mission here. I’m just trying to give the signal to Ukraine that I’m really proud of it.”

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