Ukraine’s Kostyuk Refused to Shake Azarenka’s Hand After US Open Loss

By Erik Gudris | Thursday, September 1, 2022

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus after their second round US Open match.

The No. 26 seeded Azarenka won the match 6-2, 6-3 to reach the third round.

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When Azarenka extended her hand up at the net, Kostyuk responded by extending her racquet and tapping her opponent’s racquet instead.

Kostyuk, who has expressed disappointment in Belarusian and Russian players not condemning the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, explained her actions afterward.

“I feel like I don’t know any single person who condemned the war publicly, and the actions of their government. I don’t feel like I can support this, the World No. 65 Kostyuk said afterwards. “We had a great match, don’t get me wrong. She’s a great competitor, I respect her as an athlete but that has nothing to do with her as a human being.”

Kostyuk also said that she texted Azarenka on Wednesday to warn her she would not shake Azarenka’s hand post-match. She also wanted to have a conversation with Azarenka about the conflict, but Azarenka was not on site that day for that to occur.

Former world No. 1 Azarenka said she’s open to face-to-face discussion.

“I’m always open to listen. I can’t force people to do something they don’t want to do,” Azarenka said. “But any time, she has my number, as you know, she texted me, and all others, as well.

“Whatever I can do to help people, I don’t play political games, I don’t play media games, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m very direct person. I mean, many of you know me for many years. I don’t go around the corners. I go straight to the person.

“The Twitter is not a place for discussion. The place for discussion is face to face, and if anybody who knows me outside of the court, that’s what I’m about. I talk with people, not through the phone or through the text, face to face.”

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka was scheduled to compete in the pre-event “Tennis Plays for Peace” exhibition to raise Ukraine relief funds. Yet after Ukrainian players, including Kostyuk, criticized Azarenka’s planned appearance, the USTA later announced that Azarenka would not participate.

Belarus native Azarenka, though she has not formally denounced the war, has publicly called for it to end. Azarenka in her press conference later said that she has tried to reach out to Kostyuk through the WTA, but with no results.

Azarenka expressed regret that she could not be in the exhibition, but did not blame organizers for their decision.

“It’s a no-brainer for me. Like, why wouldn’t I participate in a humanitarian aid for people who are really struggling right now. It’s not even a thought for me at that moment,” Azarenka said after her match. “I thought this was a gesture that really shows commitment. I’m not sure why it wasn’t taken that way. I don’t want to judge that, that’s what happened. “I can’t force it. I’m not going to go and say, ‘Oh, how dare you?’ It’s not my place. My place is to be there to offer, offer my help, and that’s it.”

Azarenka will next face Petra Martic in the next round.

Photo credit: Getty

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