Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refuses to shake hands with Victoria Azarenka over silence regarding war

NEW YORK – After the set-in-a-row defeat to former world number 1 Victoria Azarenka, Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent. Instead, she raised her racket for a quick flick.

Kostyuk, who expressed his unhappiness at the silence of Russian and Belarusian players on the tour, said it was inappropriate to shake hands with Azarenka at the post-match press conference.

“It was my choice: I don’t feel like I don’t know any single person who publicly condemned the war and their government’s actions, so I don’t feel I can support it,” he told ESPN.

“Don’t get me wrong, she is a great competitor. But it has nothing to do with her human being,” added Kostyuk.

After the Citi Open in Washington, DC, Ukrainian player Dayana Yastremska also refused to shake hands with Azarenka after the match. Yastremska fled Ukraine with her younger sister a few days after the Russian invasion began in February.

Belarus was sanctioned by the United States for its “support” and “facilitation” of the invasion.

Kostyuk said Azarenka did not contact her to have a conversation since the war began. Kostyuk said that given Azarenka’s reach both in Belarus and as part of the WTA Players Council, she should use her voice to condemn the war.

Kostyuk also said he sent a message to Azarenka on Wednesday after her practice session to “warn” her that he will not shake her hand after today’s match. Kostyuk also said he wanted to have a broader conversation with Azarenka about the war and hear his thoughts on where the Belarusian was. Kostyuk said Azarenka replied that she was not on the spot and therefore they did not have the conversation.

Azarenka was removed from last week’s USTA Peace for Ukraine event – a humanitarian event to raise money for Ukraine – after Kostyuk expressed her unease about Azarenka’s participation in an interview with the Ukrainian agency. BTU. Kostyuk said he refused to attend the event as a result.

“Imagine there is World War II and there is a fundraiser for Jews and a German player wants to play,” Kostyuk said of his decision after Thursday’s game.

Immediately following the Kostyuk press conference, Azarenka told reporters that he had contacted via the WTA to have conversations with Ukrainian athletes over the past few months.

“I’ve been told it’s not a good time,” he said.

Azarenka added that she does not have a close relationship with Kostyuk and never had a conversation with her, but she has reached out to other Ukrainian players to listen to them and build relationships with them and would be willing to have a face-to-face with Kostyuk.

“I am open to any moment to listen, to try to understand, to sympathize. I think empathy at a moment like this is really important, which, once again, was my clear message in the beginning,” she said.

Regarding the Peace for Ukraine fundraising event, Azarenka said she was asked to attend and immediately agreed to do so, as “it’s child’s play for me. For example, why shouldn’t I attend a humanitarian aid for people who are really in trouble right now, “he said.

“I thought this was a gesture that really shows commitment,” Azarenka said. “I’m not sure why he wasn’t caught that way.”

Azarenka also said he received a clear message from the start of the war.

“I’m here to try to help, which I’ve done a lot. Maybe it’s not something people see. And that’s not why I do it. I do it for people who [are] people in need, kids who need clothes, other people who need money or other people who need transportation or whatever. This is what’s important to me, helping people in need. “

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