Belarussian tennis ace Victoria Azarenka beat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in resounding fashion as the former world number 1 wrapped up her second round of the US Open in straight sets, winning the match 6-2, 6-3.
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After the game, the players walked towards the net, as is customary for the players to approach and congratulate one another with a handshake. But, during this particular instance, the Belarussian victory and the Ukrainian competitor did not shake each other’s hands. Instead, they just tapped their racquets.
Azarenka defeats Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3. No handshake, just a racket tap… pic.twitter.com/WogSSznz2t— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 1, 2022
This gesture came about due to Kostyuk’s resolve to intentionally not shake the Belarussian player’s hand citing the tension between Ukraine and the Russian ally Belarus. Apparently, the 20-year-old had already sent her Belarussian counterpart a text message indicating her post-game action.
Kostyuk has been open about her stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and her condemnation of anyone who does not denounce the actions of the Russian and Belarussia regimes.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now,” the statement from the players said.
“It was my choice, I 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. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great competitor. But, it has nothing to do with her being a human being.”
She went as far as to appeal to the organises of the US Open to remove Azarenka from the list of players taking part in a charity event, with the proceeds going to aid Ukrainians in need, ahead of the Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows.
“Imagine there is World War II and there is a fundraiser for Jewish people and a German player wants to play,” said Kostyuk.
Azarenka was left scratching her head over the incident as she had shown a strong desire to be part of the charity event.
“It’s a no-brainer for me, as why wouldn’t I participate in humanitarian aid for people who are really struggling right now? I thought that this was a gesture that really shows commitment. I’m not sure why it wasn’t taken that way.”
The 33-year-old had tried to reach out to Kostyuk through the WTA in order to talk to the Ukrainian, but was supposedly told that ‘it is not a good time.’
The Minsk-born star went on to emphasise her tilt to helping those in need.
“I’ve had a very clear message from the beginning, that I’m here to try to help, which I have done a lot. Maybe not something that people see. And that’s not what I do it for. I do it for people who are in need, juniors who need clothes, other people who need money or other people who need transportation or whatever. That’s what is important to me, to help people who are in need,” said Azarenka.
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