Russia’s war against Ukraine has escalated into a cold war on the tennis court between Ukrainians Marta Kostyuk and Victoria Azarenka.
Kostyuk has been a vocal critic of Azarenka, and initially declined an invitation from the USTA to join a Ukrainian charity because of Azarenka’s expected presence. And on Thursday, after Azarenka won the second round of the US Open 6-2, 6-3, she refused to shake her hand.
“I was in the same situation [Ukrainian Dayana] Yastremska in Washington. it is what it is. She just moves on, ”said Azarenka, 32, shrugging her shoulders. “I can’t force anyone to shake hands. That’s their decision. How did that make me feel? It’s not the most important thing in the world right now.”
Azarenka is from Belarus, not Russia. However, the landlocked country shares a border with Ukraine and served as a transit point for Russian forces in the months leading up to the invasion.
“It was my choice,” Kostyuk reportedly told The Guardian. “I don’t know a single person who has publicly condemned the war and the government’s actions, so I don’t feel like I can support this. We played a great match. Don’t get me wrong. , I respect her as an athlete, but that has nothing to do with who she is.”
There has been a callousness between the pair since hostilities began, including Kostyuk tearing Azarenka apart. After Thursday’s victory on Court 17, the former World No. 1 roared into the sky with a fist pump. Her Ukrainian nemesis avoided her handshake and didn’t even make eye contact, instead only offering a cold racket her tap.
Kostyuk — a 20-year-old from Kyiv — texted Azarenka on Wednesday to explain his position.
“I have been offered many times through the WTA because I believe there is some kind of sensitivity. I was told it was not a good time,” Azarenka said. “In March, when it all happened, I contacted all the players I knew personally and we still have good relationships. Of course, I am talking about Ukrainian players. It’s the right approach for those who don’t want to talk to, but I’ve provided.
“I had a very clear message from the beginning: I am here to help. I have done a lot. And that’s not what I’m doing, I’m doing it for people in need, juniors who need clothes, people who need money, people who need transportation, etc. Helping people in need Thing, that’s what’s important to me, I replied like she texted me if Marta wanted to talk to me. We are open all the time.”
Kostyuk was critical of Azarenka’s participation in the Tennis Plays for Peace exhibition to raise funds for Ukraine, stating, “There was no overt support from her for our direction. did not contact me.”
Azarenka left Belarus many years ago and did not attend the charity event because of these comments, even though she lives in Boca Raton (Florida). But she turned up on Thursday, well ahead of Kostyuk. The Ukrainian scored just 2 of his 9 break points, committed 31 unforced errors and was sent off without a word to Azarenka.
“I always listen. You can’t force people to do something they don’t want to do,” Azarenka said. “But at any given moment, she has my number. She texts me. And everything else as well. Whatever I can do to help people. I don’t play political games or I don’t play media games, that’s not what I’m here for I’m a very direct person.
“I don’t turn corners. I go straight to the person. Twitter is not a place for discussion. Face to face.”