NEW YORK — Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake her Belarusian rival after losing outright to former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. Instead, she raises her racket for quick taps.
Kostyuk has been outspoken about her dissatisfaction with Russian and Belarusian players being silent on the tour, saying it was inappropriate to shake Azarenka’s hand at a post-match press conference.
“It’s my choice — I don’t think I know anyone who has publicly condemned the war, and the actions of their government, so I don’t think I can support that,” she told ESPN.
“Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great competitor. But, it’s not about her as a person,” Kostyuk added.
Ukrainian Dayana Yastremska also refused to shake Azarenka’s hand after the match at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. Yastremska and her sister fled Ukraine just days after the Russian invasion began in February.
Belarus was sanctioned by the US for its “support” and “facilitation” of the invasion.
Kostyuk said Azarenka had not contacted her since the war began. Kostyuk said that, given Azarenka’s influence in Belarus and her role as a member of the WTA Players Council, she should use her voice to condemn the war.
Kostyuk also said she texted Azarenka after training on Wednesday to “warn her” that she would not shake her hand after today’s game. Kostyuk also said she wanted to have a broader dialogue with Azarenka about the war and hear her views on the Belarusian position. Kostyuk said Azarenka responded that she wasn’t there, so they didn’t talk.
Azarenka was canceled last week from the USTA’s Ukraine Peace Event, a humanitarian event to raise money for Ukraine, after Kostyuk expressed dissatisfaction with his participation in an interview with Ukrainian media BTU. Kostyuk said she refused to attend the event for this reason.
“Imagine World War II, there’s a fundraiser for Jews, and a German player wants to play,” Kostyuk said of her decision after Thursday’s game.
Immediately after Kostyuk’s press conference, Azarenka told reporters that she had spoken to Ukrainian athletes through the WTA over the past few months.
“I was told it wasn’t a good time,” she said.
Azarenka added that she is not close to Kostyuk and has never spoken to her, but has been in touch with other Ukrainian players, listening and building relationships with them, and is willing to meet face-to-face with Kostyuk .
“I’m willing to listen at any time, try to understand, empathize. I believe empathy is really important in moments like this, and that’s what I’ve made clear from the very beginning,” she said.
Regarding the Ukrainian peace fundraiser, Azarenka said she was invited to participate and immediately agreed to participate because “it was a no-brainer for me. Like, why don’t I participate in humanitarian programs for those who are suffering?” Aid? It’s really struggling right now,” she said.
“I think it’s a real commitment gesture,” Azarenka said. “I don’t know why not.”
Azarenka also said she had a clear message from the start of the war.
“I’m here to try and help, I’ve done a lot. Maybe not what people see. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m doing it for those [are] There are those in need, those who need clothes, those who need money, those who need transportation, and so on. It’s important to me to help people in need. “