Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk declines to shake hands with Viktoria Azarenka of Belarus

Belarusian Viktoria Azarenka defeated Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3 in straight sets on Court 17 in the bloodiest finish to a US Open match on Thursday.

As the second round match ended, Kostyuk approached the net and offered his racket only to the celebrating Azarenka, who was obliged to make a quick tap with his own racket before the pair shook hands with the referee.

It went by in a flash, but it’s a prime example of how the war in Ukraine still feels in the sporting world.

Kostyuk, ranked 65th in the world, is outspoken about the war in Ukraine. Belarus is closely allied with Russia and has launched unilateral attacks on its neighbors.

This included friction with Azarenka, who was removed from last week’s USTA’s Ukraine peace event after Kostyuk expressed displeasure with her participation.

Kostyuk and Azarenka explain US Open awkwardness

Kostyuk tried to reach out to Azarenka after the match, but said the former world No. 1 had already left Flushing Meadows, according to British outleti.

“I really wanted to warn her that I wasn’t going to shake her hand.

She added: [shaking her hand is] To do the right thing in the situation I am in. Do not know. it was my choice.

“We had a great match. Don’t get me wrong. She’s a great competitor. I respect her as an athlete, but it has nothing to do with her.” [as] human. “

Kostyuk is from Kyiv and still has friends and family living in Ukraine. Ukraine is in his seventh month trying to push back Russian and Belarusian forces.

September 1, 2022; Flushing, New York, USA. Victoria Azarenka (left) greets Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk after her second round match on day four of the 2022 US Open tennis tournament at the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center Required credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Victoria Azarenka and Marta Kostyuk had an awkward finish in the second round at the US Open. (Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)

By her side, Azarenka told reporters after the game She reached out to the WTA to talk to the Ukrainian athlete, but was denied. I sent a message of support to other Ukrainian athletes who were happy to meet Kostyuk in person.

She also said she quietly offered assistance to those affected:

“I feel like I had a very clear message from the beginning, that I’m here to help. I’ve done a lot. It’s probably not what people see. and that’s not what i do i do it for people [are] People 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.

“If Marta wanted to talk to me, I replied, like she texted me yesterday. I’m always open to listen, try to understand and empathize. Like this I believe that empathy in moments of grief is really important. Again, that was my clear message in the beginning. To do. .”

Azarenka, Called for peace immediately after the Russian invasionwas one of several Russian and Belarusian players banned from Wimbledon in response to the war.

She also refuted Kostyuk’s claim that she had not used her voice at the WTA Athletes’ Council to adequately condemn the war (“With all due respect, she’s not there, so I don’t think she has any idea what I’m doing on the Players Council.”) and expressed confusion as to why she was kicked out of the Ukrainian peace event:

“Me [was] That USTA called me and asked if I would participate. It’s very easy for me. For example, why not participate in humanitarian aid to those who are really suffering right now? At that moment it’s not even a thought for me.

I thought this was a gesture that really showed commitment when I asked, “You haven’t done enough, you haven’t said enough.”

Azarenka is scheduled to face Petra Martic in the third round on Saturday.

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