Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk Doesn't Shake Hands with Victoria Azarenka over Russian War

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 1, 2022

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Victoria Azarenka following their second-round match in the 2022 U.S. Open.

José Morgado @josemorgado

Azarenka defeats Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3. No handshake, just a racket tap… <a href="https://t.co/WogSSznz2t">pic.twitter.com/WogSSznz2t</a>

Kostyuk, who was born in Kyiv, Ukraine, explained to ESPN's Aishwarya Kumar she took issue with Azarenka failing to criticize the role of her native Belarus in Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"It was my choice—I don't feel like I don't know any single person who condemned the war publicly, and the actions of their government, so I don't feel like I can support this," Kostyuk said.

"Don't get me wrong, she's a great competitor. But, it has nothing to do with her being a human being."

Kumar noted a similar situation played out at the Citi Open, when Dayana Yastremska didn't shake Azarenka's hand following their first-round encounter.

Prior to the U.S. Open, the tournament dropped Azarenka from its Tennis Plays for Peace exhibition event. The New York Times' Matthew Futterman reported the step was taken after Ukrainian players expressed their concerns.

Kostyuk told reporters she reached out to Azarenka by text message Wednesday to say she didn't plan to shake hands. The 20-year-old added she thought the two-time Australian Open champion could've done more to express solidarity with her Ukrainian colleagues.

"I never had any personal hate towards her," Kostyuk said. "But because she has such a big role outside the tennis, in Belarus, in the tennis world, being on the WTA Players Council, I feel she could have done more at least with our personal relationships around players."

Azarenka spoke on the matter after her straight-set victory.

"I feel like I've had a very clear message from the beginning, is that I'm here to try to help, which I have done a lot," she told reporters. "Maybe not something that people see, and that's not what I do it for. I do it for people who in need, juniors who need clothes, other people who need money or other people who needed transportation or whatever. That's what is important to me, to help people are in need."

Although Belarus isn't involved in direct fighting against Ukraine, the country has aided in Russia's military effort. In addition to the diplomatic fallout for the country, Belarusian athletes have been adversely impacted amid the ongoing continuation of the war.

Azarenka was among the players banned from competing at Wimbledon earlier in the summer.


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