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Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk REFUSES to shake hands with Belarusian Victoria Azarenka at US Open

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Geopolitical tensions flared during the US Open on Thursday when Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused the usual handshake at the net as Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka defeated her 6-2 6-3 in the second round.

The pair exchanged a quick tap on the racket on Court 17 after Kostyuk hit the ball into the net on match three point and the three-time Flushing Meadows finalist let out a triumphant roar.

“Well, I wasn’t surprised. I don’t believe it’s important to make a big deal out of it. I always shake hands with my opponents,” said Azarenka, adding that Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska had done the same in Washington, DC last month.

“I can’t force anyone to shake my hand. It’s their decision. How did I feel? It’s not the most important thing in the world right now.’

Victoria Azarenka (L) of Belarus taps rackets with Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine after winning

It marked the last awkward moment during the last major of the year, where Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians battle side by side against the backdrop of a military conflict.

Belarus is being used as a major staging area for the Russian war in Ukraine, what Moscow calls a “special operation.”

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an unprovoked imperialist war of aggression.

Kostyuk has repeatedly called on the WTA to ban Russian athletes from the Tour, telling the Times last month that the invasion turned Russian players on the Tour into “enemies” in a matter of minutes, describing her family in Kiev huddled amid of attacks on the Tour. capital city.

Days before their second-round meeting, it was the objections of 20-year-old Kostyuk that prompted Azarenka to withdraw from the tournament’s “Tennis Plays for Peace Exhibition” to raise humanitarian aid for Ukraine.

“Imagine there is World War II and there is a fundraiser for Jewish people and a German player wants to play,” Kostyuk said before the event.

Azarenka said she was asked by the USTA to participate in the event and said it was “a no-brainer” to accept at the time.

“I thought this was a gesture that shows real commitment. I’m not sure why it wasn’t conceived that way. I don’t want to judge that, that’s what happened,” she told reporters.

Azarenka advances to the third round after beating Kostyuk in straight sets 6-2, 6-3

Azarenka advances to the third round after beating Kostyuk in straight sets 6-2, 6-3

Kostyuk thinks Belarusian and Russian athletes have not spoken out enough against the war

Kostyuk thinks Belarusian and Russian athletes have not spoken out enough against the war

Kostyuk has spoken out in her calls to remove athletes from Belarus and Russia from the WTA and from Grand Slam events. In particular, she says that Azarenka has not approached her for an interview since the beginning of the war.

Azarenka told reporters she contacted the WTA to talk to Ukrainian athletes and was told it was not a good time.

In addition, Kostyuk says she informed Azarenka of her plans not to shake hands before the match was even played.

“It was my choice – I don’t feel like I don’t know a single person who has publicly condemned the war, and the actions of their government, so I don’t feel I can support this,” she said. ESPN.

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

Most of the global sports community quickly moved to isolate Russia and Belarus after the invasion began in February, but tennis players from the two countries avoided tour-level suspensions, with the sport’s governing bodies demanding that they compete under a neutral flag.

Wimbledon took it a step further when it banned athletes from both countries during this year’s major, meaning Russian world number one Daniil Medvedev was unable to participate.

The US Open said Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete without showing their flag or country, a move that frustrated some Ukrainian competitors, including 2019 semifinalist Elina Svitolina, who said organizers “should have taken more serious action.” ‘.

Medvedev defended his title on the hard court major, was asked questions about the conflict almost immediately and told reporters after his opening night win over American Stefan Kozlov that he was “trying to learn every day”.

“Most of my really good friends, they know who I am. I’m still Daniil Medvedev, still playing tennis,” he said.

Defending US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will compete under a neutral flag this year

Defending US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will compete under a neutral flag this year

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