Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk is BOOED off court after refusing to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka at the French Open… but not before Sabalenka thought they were jeering her!
- Second seed Aryna Sabalenka defeated Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk 6-3, 6-2
- As expected, Kostyuk refused the shake hands because of the Ukraine conflict
- Sabalenka thought the crowd was jeering her, but it was aimed at Kostyuk
Marta Kostyuk was dramatically booed off the court at Roland Garros after snubbing the handshake request of Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
Second seed Sabalenka beat her opponent 6-3, 6-2 in a convincing performance of just over an hour and then offered her hand to the Ukrainian but was left waiting.
The pair have played previously and the same post-match outcome occurred, with Kostyuk refusing to speak to Sabalenka due to Belarus’s support for Russia in the war of aggression against Ukraine. Fifty-four drones attacked Kyiv on Saturday night.
Kostyuk was by far the fans’ favourite during the match, with the Parisian crowd cheering points won by the 20-year-old world No 39, but that soon turned as they took umbrage with her lack of sportsmanship – despite Russia and Belarus’s invasion of her homeland.
Sabalenka originally thought the booing was for her and sarcastically bowed to the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk shakes the hands of the umpire but refuses to acknowledge her opponent from Belarus Aryna Sabalenka (right)
As was expected, Kostyuk ignored Sabalenka post-match over Belarusian support for Russia’s war in her homeland of Ukraine
Sabalenka defeated Kostyuk in two sets on the opening day of the French Open in Paris
The Belarusian, whose powerful game was too much for her opponent, said: ‘It was a very tough match, I mean tough emotionally.
‘I’m sorry guys, I didn’t get it at first, I thought this booing was against me so I was a little surprised. But then I felt your support, so thank you so much.’
The Australian Open champion added: ‘Actually I thought that my first Grand Slam would be the French Open. I have no idea why because I couldn’t play on clay.’
Back in January, during the Australian Open, Kostyuk made clear she would snub any competitors from Russia or Belarus who hadn’t spoken out against the war in Ukraine.
She’d refused to shake hands with former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka after losing to the Belarusian at the US Open.
‘I haven’t changed about the war and everything that’s going on, on tour,’ she said. ‘Because people who just say they don’t want war, it makes us [Ukraine] sound like we want war.
‘Obviously we don’t want the war, too.’
She added: ‘Whoever speaks out clearly I believe has every right to be on tour but whoever doesn’t… I don’t think it’s humane.’
In April this year, Kostyuk claimed ‘no more than’ five players from Russia and Belarus had privately expressed their opposition to Vladimir Putin’s occupation of Ukraine.
Sabalenka gave a sarcastic bow to the Philippe Chatrier crowd because she thought they were jeering her rather than Kostyuk
There was a frostiness at the changeovers right through the opening round contest
‘Out of about 50, one, two, three, four, five – no more,’ she said in an interview with Ukrainian publication Tribuna.
‘They admitted that their country is doing something truly despicable and they want the war to end with Ukraine’s victory.
‘The rest may want peace, but only if Russia wins. Its citizens will gladly sacrifice millions of lives to avoid defeat.
‘They categorically reject her, but I am sure that they will lose.’
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s first round match in Paris, Kostyuk added: ‘It’s not politics. War is war. We know how Russia and Belarus act in this war.
‘They shoot civilians, take civilians as prisoners, loot homes, rape and kidnap children. This is genocide of Ukrainian people, not politics.
‘Aryna might become No 1.. Having such influence in the world and she refuses it. We’re talking about people being murdered, and we hear ‘leave sports out of politics’. War doesn’t choose if you’re an athlete when it comes to your home.’
Sabalenka acknowledges the support of the Chatrier crowd after realising they were booing her opponent and not her
It was an occasion to forget for Kostyuk, who was defeated comfortably in straight sets
On Sabalenka, she said: ‘I don’t have respect for her continuing to go to Russia, speaking to Russian press, not taking her family out of aggressor states despite having financial means.
‘I couldn’t accept myself if I stay there and people just continue to have fun the same as before.’
Sabalenka, 25, had expected to be snubbed by her opponent and said pre-match it was ‘ok if she hates me.’
She said: ‘There are going to be people who love me; there are going to be people who hate me. If she hates me, I don’t feel anything like that to her.
‘If I could I would stop the war.
‘And about the no shaking, I can kind of understand them. Like I imagine if they’re going to shake hands with Russians and Belarusians, then they’re gonna get so many messages from their home countries.
‘So I kind of understand why they are not doing it. At the same time, I feel like sports shouldn’t be in politics. Like we’re just athletes. If they feel good with no shaking hands, I’m happy with that.’
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