The spectators of the US Open witnessed another episode of the new Cold War. Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake the hand of Victoria Azarenka of Belarus because “it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”
Kostyuk lost 2-6 3-6, announcing that she had informed Azarenka in advance that she would not be congratulating her. Instead, the two touched their racquets over the net after the match ended.
The reason – Belarus is Russia’s main ally in the war that Vladimir Putin’s armies have been waging in Ukraine for more than half a year.
“Everyone is trying to be endlessly diplomatic about this. But my nation is being slaughtered every day.”Kostyuk said.
Azarenka had planned to take part in a charity event to help people in Ukraine, but after criticism from 20-year-old Vika Kostyuk, she pulled out. The Belarusian said she was not surprised by Kostyuk’s reluctance to shake her hand.
“I don’t think we should blow the story further. But I always congratulated my rivals,” said the two-time Grand Slam champion.
Kostyuk is a native of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where hostilities continue to this day. The world No. 65 regularly gives voice to the conflict and is one of the few tennis players to speak publicly about the war.
In April, she was one of several Ukrainian tennis players who supported the decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from ATP and WTA tournaments unless they publicly denounced the war.
“I can’t think of a person (among the Russians and Belarusians on the tour) who denounced the war publicly and opposed the actions of their government. There is no way things can continue like this – Kostyuk said. –
Don’t get me wrong, we had a great game. She’s an incredible competitor and has my respect as an athlete, but I can’t say the same for her as a person.”
The former #1 maintains a good relationship with President Alexander Lukashenko, who is Putin’s main ally in this war. The 33-year-old Azarenka has not publicly condemned the war, but has on several occasions called for an end to the military conflict.
“There’s no way I can oblige her – said Vika about Kostyuk’s refusal to shake her hand after the match. – There’s no way I can go and ask her for an explanation. I don’t think it’s right. It’s my duty to offer my help, but nothing more.”