Over the past week, handshakes have been getting attention for all the wrong reasons since Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard declined the traditional pre-match handshake with Alexandra Dulgheru at last weekend’s Fed Cup tie.
The results have featured countless weigh-ins from fans, media and even some of the players. It’s led me to the question – what actually makes a good, sporting handshake? I’ve asked around a little in Stuttgart and gone through the archives for some of the more memorable moments at the net in tennis history.
“Oh, you ask ME?”
When I asked Barbora Zahlavova Strycova about the quality of a post-match handshake after a practice session with Fed Cup teammate Lucie Safarova, her eyebrows went up and she cracked a smile — clearly aware of her reputation as the headmistress of the handshake academy.
“Well, a handshake has to be firm when you are at the net,” the Czech said. “It’s a way of showing respect to your opponent; no matter what happen during the match, you need to put that behind you!”
Through the years, there have been some very well-publicized moments after match point — some for better and others for worse. One of the most recent infamous handshakes came during the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. In the semifinals, Agnieszka Radwanska lost a heartbreaking 7-9 final set to Sabine Lisicki, and her disappointment shone through at the net — earning her criticism from various sources.
After her first round win in Stuttgart, Lisicki’s compatriot Angelique Kerber was asked if she had heard of the handshake — or lack thereof — drama in Canada, and the German lefty smiled too, and nodded.
“I’m always in favor of a handshake — you’ve got to respect each player and in the end, there can be only one winner,” Kerber said. “That’s tennis and whoever is better on the day, wins. For me the handshake is always been part of the game, and it’s just about showing your opponent the respect they deserve.”
During her title run in Charleston, Kerber was hugged at the net by Andrea Petkovic, whom she defeated in the semifinals.
Much like Petkovic, Safarova has a very similar approach to post-match encounters.
“The best handshake after a match is obviously a hug, especially if you’re [a] friend,” she said. “Someone is obviously sad about losing and one is happy about winning, but still that’s the best for me either way!”
Simona Halep was the player closest to the Romanian Fed Cup team in Stuttgart, and thus at the center of what people are calling “Handshake-gate.”
Upon being asked whether she thought that Dulgheru was extra motivated during Fed Cup weekend, Halep let out a laugh and said, “Yes, maybe!” When she spoke to the media in her home country last week, the then-World No. 3 talked about the recent events and how she would approach an opponent after a match.
“No, I have a very good handshake,” she insisted in Stuttgart. “With Serena [in Miami], I had a very good handshake! I wished her good luck. For me, it’s a normal thing to do things like this. It describes yourself, I think.”
In the last decade, there have been several infamous exchanges at the net — including this gem between Conchita Martinez and Patty Schnyder in Charleston. But all of this is hardly reserved for the WTA Tour, either; just this week, Lukas Rosol and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez had this no-touch moment in Bucharest:
After her quarterfinal win over Carla Suarez-Navarro, Caroline Wozniacki smirked when questions over the handshake drama were raised.
“I think win or lose you should give a normal handshake and be respectful to your opponent.”
A day after each aired their feelings, both Halep and Wozniacki walked the walk, going in for a respectful handshake and showing mutual appreciation after a tough three-hour battle in Saturday’s first semifinal at the Porsche Arena.
Perhaps Bethanie Mattek-Sands summed it up the best after her doubles semifinals with partner Safarova, when the topic of being a good sport at the net came up:
“It’s good that tennis is still treated like that,” she said. “We can all be super competitive on the court and then off the court it’s professional. It’s our job but we enjoy what we do but respect each other. I think the other day…we played the two British girls, you know we beat them 2 and 1 and they said, ‘I really enjoyed playing that match even though you guys beat us 2 and 1.’
“And I was like, you know, it’s really cool that it’s still a game and you can still enjoy it. And it’s cool to see that. I think a lot of the girls on the tour are pretty good about it.”
What do you make of the proper handshake technique and the players’ thoughts on the tradition? Sound off in the comments!