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No handshake after Ukrainian and Belarusian players face to face at US Open

NEW YORK (AP) — The Ukrainian player refused to shake hands with Victoria Azarenka after Belarus’ three-time US Open runner-up defeated her at Flushing Meadows on Thursday.

Marta Kostyuk raised her racket and waited at the net, but Azarenka hit it with her racket after winning 6-2, 6-3.

Belarus helped Russia launch its invasion of Ukraine in February. Kostyuk said she thought she might have to face Azarenka in the second round after seeing the draw at the US Open.

“It’s pretty personal,” Kostyuk said. “It wasn’t a personal match for me, especially because it was Vika, but overall it wasn’t just a casual match that I would play in a tournament.”

Asked about the traditional post-match handshake, Kostyuk said, “I don’t think that’s the right thing to do in the situation I’m in.”

Azarenka said she had already faced such a situation with a Ukrainian player when she faced Dayana Yastremska in Washington last month.

“That’s the reality. I just move on,” Azarenka said. “I can’t force anyone to shake hands. It’s their decision.”

Kostyuk said he texted Azarenka the day before the match to tell her there was no handshake.

Azarenka contacted all involved Ukrainian players in March after the invasion, and Kostyuk wasn’t one of them, but Azarenka said he tried nonetheless.

“Well, I have been offered many times through the WTA because I believe there is a certain sensitivity.

“If Marta wants to talk to me, I replied, like she texted me yesterday. I believe that things are really important and that was my clear message from the beginning.”

Kostyuk questioned that Azarenka was part of the “Tennis for Peace Exhibition” held the week before the tournament to raise money for Ukraine. Azarenka was dropped from the lineup on the day of the event, helping him generate over $1 million for humanitarian aid.

“I don’t want to answer this question because everyone is trying to be very democratic about this event and my country is like being killed every day, so I will speak very simply from my point of view. I think, see you later,” said Kostyuk. “Imagine there was World War II, there was a fundraiser for the Jews, and a German player wanted to play. I don’t think you can understand it.”

Azarenka, a member of the WTA Tour Players’ Council, said the important thing wasn’t whether she was in, but that the event took place.

“I feel like there was a very clear message from the beginning: I’m here to help. I’ve done a lot,” Azarenka said. “Maybe it’s not what people see and it’s not what I do. For those in need, juniors who need clothes, people who need money, people who need transportation, etc Helping people in need, that’s what’s important to me.”

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from Wimbledon in response to the war. They are allowed to play at the US Open without their country or flag listed.

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More AP coverage of the US Open Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/us-open-tennis-championships and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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