Ukrainian tennis star will not shake hands with Russian and Belarusian players
As Russian missiles continue to pound her country, Ukraine’s number two tennis player Marta Kostyuk has said she will not shake hands with her Russian and Belarusian rivals who she says have not done enough to speak out against the ‘invasion.
The 20-year-old Kyiv native made headlines last year when she refused the usual net handshake with former world number one Victoria Azarenka after the Belarusian beat her at the US Open.
Belarus is being used as a key playing field for Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation”.
After winning her Australian Open opener on Monday, upsetting 28th-seeded American Amanda Anisimova, Kostyuk said she would snub handshakes with any Russian or Belarusian opponent who didn’t openly condemned the invasion.
“I haven’t changed about the war and everything that’s going on, on tour,” she told Reuters.
“Because people who just say they don’t want war, it makes us (Ukraine) feel like we want war.
“Obviously we don’t want war either.”
Of the Grand Slam tournaments, only Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing, resulting in a $1 million fine by the men’s tour.
Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to play at Melbourne Park this year without their flag or country displayed.
“Whoever speaks clearly, I believe, has every right to be on tour, but whoever doesn’t…I don’t think that’s just human,” she said.
“I don’t really talk to anyone,” she added of the Russian and Belarusian players.
“I barely say ‘hi’ to them.”
Most of Kostyuk’s family members are in Kyiv, including his father and grandfather.
She is in regular contact with them and said it was frightening to see how they had all grown accustomed to the “horror” of war.
“For example, I’m more stressed being outside and looking inside than being there,” said Kostyuk, who visited Kyiv in October and left days before missiles rained down. on the city center.
Her mother sent her updates on the Russian attacks, including how she and her neighbor planned to sneak cafes ahead of an expected wave of missile strikes.
The world number 61 said she would always return home to Ukraine even if it was not safe, but she had no doubt that her country would eventually prevail.
“I don’t think we would even stand a chance if we didn’t think like that,” she said.
“It just takes time and unfortunately a lot of casualties and deaths, many of them innocent.
“It’s our faith, I guess, and we just have to come back strong.”
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