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Ukraine tennis player booed off after snubbing Belarusian rival

Moment Ukraine tennis player Marta Kostyuk is BOOED off court at French Open after refusing to shake hands with Belarusian rival Aryna Sabalenka because of Putin’s invasion

  • Ukrainian player was booed for refusing to shake hands with her Belarusian rival 
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Ukrainian tennis played Marta Kostyuk was dramatically booed off the court at the French Open after refusing to shake the hand of Belarusian rival Aryna Sabalenka.

Kostyuk, 20, had been a fan favourite going into the game on Sunday but refused to even make eye contact with Sabalenka, 25, following her 3-6, 2-6 defeat.

Instead, she walked over to acknowledge the chair umpire as Sabalenka walked toward the net as if expecting some exchange with her opponent post-match.

Kostyuk has refused to shake hands with any opponent from Russia or allied Belarus since Ukraine was invaded in February 2022. 

In a post-match press conference, Kostyuk said she ‘did not expect’ the reception, adding ‘I have no reaction to it but people should be, honestly, embarrassed.

‘I want to see people react to it in 10 years when the war is over. I think then they will also realise what they did.’

Sabalenka defeated Kostyuk in two sets on the opening day of the French Open in Paris

Kostyuk shakes hands with the umpire but refuses to acknowledge her opponent from Belarus

The pair have played previously with the same post-match outcome, with Kostyuk refusing to speak to Sabalenka due to Belarus’s support for Russia in the war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Only yesterday, fifty-four drones attacked Kyiv – the largest drone attack since the beginning of the Russian invasion, killing two and wounding three others.

READ MORE: Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko ‘is rushed to Moscow hospital as he falls seriously ill for the second time in a month after collapsing on trip to Russia’

Sablenka has maintained that ‘nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, supports the war. Nobody. If we could stop it we would do it.’

But Kostyuk questioned her sincerity, saying: ‘She never says that she personally doesn’t support this war, and I feel like journalists should change the questions that you ask these athletes because the war is already there.

‘I feel like you should ask these players who would they want to win the war because if you ask this question, I’m not so sure these people will say that they want Ukraine to win.’

After her convincing win, the Russian seemed to think the booing was intended for her and sarcastically bowed to the crowd on Court Philippe Chatrier.

She 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.’

Kostyuk also refused to shake hands with former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka after losing to the Belarusian at the US Open last year.

‘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.’

Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine looks dejected against Aryna Sabalenka during their Women’s Singles Round Match on Day One of the at Roland Garros on May 28, 2023 in Paris, France

Aryna Sabalenka acknowledges the crowd after defeating Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in their Women’s Singles First Round Match on Day One of the at Roland Garros on May 28, 2023

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.

‘Out of about 50, one, two, three, four, five – no more,’ she said in an interview with Ukrainian publication Tribuna.

READ MORE: Putin puts nukes in Europe for the first time: Russia will station ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons in Belarus, President says in new threat to the West

‘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” [sic]. 

‘War doesn’t choose if you’re an athlete when it comes to your home.’ 

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.’ 

Kostyuk flouted etiquette, walking straight off the court without acknowledging her opponent

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

Sabalenka acknowledges the crowd after realising they were not booing her

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.’

Responding to the ‘if she hates me then let her’ comment, the Ukrainian said: ‘I’ve never said in an interview or in private to Aryna that I hate her. I don’t know how to comment on why she talks about it like that. 

‘For me, this is not about emotions, because hate is an emotion. It’s about respect.’ 

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