Marta Kostyuk: Ukrainian tennis participant chooses to not shake arms with Belarusian opponent Victoria Azarenka at US Open

Kostyuk had advised Azarenka by way of textual content earlier than the second-round match that she supposed to say no the standard post-match handshake given Belarus’ function in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The pair as an alternative tapped rackets on the web on the finish of match, which Azarenka received 6-2 6-3.

“It was my choice — I don’t feel like I don’t know any single person who condemned the war publicly, and the actions of their government, so I don’t feel like I can support this,” the 20-year-old Kostyuk advised ESPN.

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

Kostyuk is one in all a number of Ukrainian gamers who’ve known as on Russian and Belarusian athletes to denounce the Russian authorities’s determination to invade Ukraine in the event that they need to compete in worldwide competitions.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is an in depth ally of Russian chief Vladimir Putin.

The nation was used as a launch level for Russian troops in February and NATO officers have mentioned the “vast majority” of Russian air operations in Ukraine are launched from Belarus — although Lukashenko has beforehand mentioned his nation was “being dragged” into the conflict.

“I wasn’t surprised. I don’t believe that making a big deal out of it is important,” Azarenka advised reporters concerning the handshake, including that it additionally occurred when she confronted Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska in Washington final month.

“I always shake hands with my opponents … It is what it is. I just move on. I cannot force anybody to shake my hand. It’s their decision. How did it make me feel? It’s not the most important thing in the world right now.”

Forward of this 12 months’s US Open, the US Tennis Affiliation (USTA) introduced that Azarenka had been faraway from taking part in a “Tennis Plays for Peace” occasion to boost funds for Ukraine.

“Vika is a strong player leader and we appreciate her willingness to participate. Given the sensitivities to Ukrainian players, and the on-going conflict, we believe this is the right course of action for us,” mentioned a press release from the USTA.

On Thursday, Azarenka mentioned she is “open any time to listen, to try to understand, to sympathize” with Ukrainian gamers.

Two-time grand slam champion Azarenka has reached the final of the US Open on three occasions.

“I believe that empathy in the moment like this is really important, which has, again, been my clear message in the beginning,” she continued.

“I’m going to stand by that, because what’s happening in the world is very difficult right now, but we shouldn’t forget that we are all human and we should treat each other that way.”

This isn’t the primary time tennis has turn into intertwined in geopolitics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian gamers, who’re competing underneath impartial flags on the US Open, have been banned from competing at Wimbledon earlier this 12 months. The choice, nevertheless, proved divisive, and tennis’ governing our bodies responded by eradicating rating factors from the event.

Azarenka, a three-time finalist on the US Open, will play Croatia’s Petra Martić within the third spherical on Saturday.