Crowd boos Belarusian player Victoria Azarenka after defeat by Ukraine's Svitolina at Wimbledon

Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka (left) and Ukraine's Elina Svitolina Credit: AP

Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka said it “wasn't fair” she was booed at Wimbledon after her loss to Ukrainian rival Elina Svitolina over the weekend.

It was the first clash between a Russian or Belarusian player and a Ukrainian at Wimbledon since the lifting of last year’s ban on competitors from the aggressor nations.

The crowd, who had been overwhelmingly behind Svitolina throughout, produced a deafening roar when she clinched a 2-6 6-4 7-6 (9) victory.

The former world number three had been booed at the French Open, where she also made the last eight, for refusing to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents but here it was Azarenka, who put her hand up to acknowledge Svitolina before leaving the court, that received loud jeers.

It was unclear whether the fans thought it was she who had snubbed her opponent, but the Belarusian shook her head as she walked off and banged her hands together over her head.

Victoria Azarenka leaves the court after losing to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina. Credit: AP

“I can’t control the crowd,” she said after, and added that the boos may have been down to members of the crowd drinking.

“I’m not sure that a lot of people were understanding what’s happening. It’s probably been a lot of Pimm’s throughout the day. It wasn’t fair. What can I do?" she said.

“I feel like it’s been pretty consistent for the last 18, 19 months. I haven’t done anything wrong but I keep getting different treatment sometimes.

“She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision. What should I have done? Stayed and waited? There’s no thing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision.

“But this conversation about shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation. So if you guys want to keep talking about it, bring it up, make it a big deal, headlines, whatever it is, keep going.

“I thought it was a great tennis match. If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or a quite drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame.”

Svitolina, who had lost all her previous five matches against Azarenka, only returned to the tour in April following the birth of daughter Skai in October.

Speaking after the match in her on-court interview, she said: “After giving birth to our daughter, this is the second happiest moment in my life.

“It was a really tough match. When I was 0-2 down in the second set I heard you guys cheering for me and I almost wanted to cry. I was really struggling and I really wanted to win today. You guys gave me so much strength today.”

Svitolina added that she drew strength from thinking of the plight of her homeland.

“I was thinking back home there are lots of people that are watching and cheering for me, I know how much it means for them," she said.

“I feel responsibility, as well. So, if I’m going out to play this match against a Russian, Belarusian, I feel of course more pressure that I need to win.

"That’s why it means a lot to get these kinds of wins. In my own way, to bring this small victory to Ukraine. “I heard a lot of Ukrainian people in the crowd. This was really special. And the crowd was amazing, was a really unbelievable feeling. I think one of the best atmospheres that I ever played in.”

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