Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, pictured, and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus did not shake hands after their match at Wimbledon on Sunday ©Getty Images

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has told players that they are not required to shake hands with an opponent after a match.

They issued the statement after what they described as an "unfortunate circumstances and misunderstanding".

Ukraine's Elina Svitolina, playing as a wild card, had called for an official statement to be made by tennis authorities on the question of handshakes.

Svitolina refused to shake hands with number 19 seed Viktoria Azarenka of Belarus after winning her fourth round match at Wimbledon 2-6, 6-4, 7-6..

"Due to the ongoing reprehensible war, the WTA respects the position of the Ukrainian athletes in foregoing the tradition of shaking opponents’ hands [from Russia and Belarus] at the end of a match, as this is a personal decision," the WTA statement said.

"We have some of the best fans in the world and are grateful for their passion and dedication, and we thank them for their understanding and respect for the athletes."

Svitolina had made her own call for the tennis authorities to give guidance.

"I think tennis organisations should make an official statement that Ukrainian athletes will not shake hands with representatives of Russia and Belarus, I don’t know, maybe people don’t understand something, maybe they don’t know what’s going on, ” Svitolina said after the match.

Last year Wimbledon had imposed a ban on players from Belarus and Russia taking part in the Championships.

"Last year it was a clear message from Wimbledon, this year it was changed because of a different kind of pressure, I don’t really support the change," Svitolina added.

Earlier this year at the French Open, Svitolina opted not to shake hands with Russians Anna Blinkova and Daria Kasatkina, both playing as neutrals.

After her quarter-final loss against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, Svitolina did not approach the net to shake hands and some spectators had reacted with boos.

"I already said multiple times that until Russian troops are out of Ukraine and we take back our territories, I'm not going to shake hands, so I have a clear statement," Svitolina said once more at Wimbledon on Sunday (July 9).

Victoria Azarenka insisted she had tried to be respectful towards Elina Svitova's decision not to shake hands at Wimbledon ©Getty Images
Victoria Azarenka insisted she had tried to be respectful towards Elina Svitova's decision not to shake hands at Wimbledon ©Getty Images

Svitolina admitted she had no problem with the way that Azarenka had behaved after the match.

Azarenka is said to have complained to Wimbledon officials about the treatment she had received.

"We agreed it wasn’t fair and it is what it is, what can I do?" Azarenka said at the media conference after her match.

"You can’t control the crowd, I’m not sure a lot of people were understanding what’s happening so its probably a lot of Pimms, the drinks throughout the day,

"I feel like its been pretty consistent for the last 18 or 19 months I havn’t done anything wrong but I keep getting different treatment sometimes, but what can i say about the crowd, there is nothing to say."

Azarenka dismissed suggestions that she had been a "victim" of the incident.

"If people are going to be focusing only on handshakes or the crowd, quite a drunk crowd, booing in the end, that’s a shame," she said.

"This conversation about not shaking hands is not a life-changing conversation, nobody’s changing lives here, we are playing tennis we are doing our jobs,"

Elina Svitova's match against Victoria Azarenka went to a third set tie break ©Getty Images
Elina Svitova's match against Victoria Azarenka went to a third set tie break ©Getty Images

Azarenka had acknowledged her opponent with a small gesture before leaving the court.

"She doesn’t want to shake hands with Russian, Belarusian people. I respected her decision, what should I have done?" she asked

"Stayed and waited? 

"There’s nothing that I could do that would have been right, so I just did what I thought was respectful towards her decision."

Number two seed Sabalenka reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon with a straight sets victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova, another Russian playing as a neutral, before reflecting on Sunday's incident.

"The situation that happened after the match is really difficult, I agree with what Elina said, I think someone should issue a statement about refusing to shake hands so that tennis players stop leaving the court in an atmosphere of hatred," Sabalenka said.