HomeTennisUkrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk refuses to shake Russian opponent's hand

Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk refuses to shake Russian opponent’s hand

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Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk refused to shake her Russian opponent’s hand on Sunday after beating her in a WTA final – and then dedicated her win to those ‘fighting and dying’ in her homeland.

The Kyiv-born 20-year-old collapsed on the court sobbing after beating Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the ATX Open in Austin, Texas 6-3, 7-5.

In the tearful interview that followed, 52nd-ranked Kostyuk said: ‘Being in the position that I am in right now, it’s extremely special to win this title. I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and to all the people who are fighting and dying right now.’

Defying custom, she had earlier refused to shake the hand of her 22-year-old Russian opponent at the net after securing victory. Footage showed her pointedly ignoring Gracheva as she ran across the court to celebrate with fans. 

Kostyuk has previously been outspoken about the tennis world’s response to the Russian invasion of her homeland, saying anti-war platitudes weren’t enough. 

Marta Kostyuk, 20, made an emotional speech following her win on Sunday, paying tribute to those ‘fighting and dying’ in her home country amid the ongoing invasion

The Ukrainian sportswoman collapsed on the court and covered her face as she appeared to break down in tears after winning the match

The Ukrainian sportswoman collapsed on the court and covered her face as she appeared to break down in tears after winning the match

Kostyuk jogged past Gracheva following the match. The Ukrainian player has previously slammed players from Russia and Belarus for not taking a stand against the war in Ukraine

Kostyuk jogged past Gracheva following the match. The Ukrainian player has previously slammed players from Russia and Belarus for not taking a stand against the war in Ukraine

At the Australian Open in January, Kostyuk said it had been ‘very upsetting’ to see Novak Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, posing there alongside a Russian flag with President Vladimir Putin’s face on it.

Kostyuk also refused to shake hands at the US Open with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

Following her win on Sunday, Kostyuk was seen shaking hands with the umpire but passed her opponent by.

During the trophy ceremony, the Kyiv native said: ‘Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say Slava Ukraini.’

The Ukrainian phrase translates to ‘Glory to Ukraine’, and she went on to pay tribute to those fighting and living through the brutal Russian invasion.

‘Being in the position that I’m in right now it’s extremely special to win this title. 

‘I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and all of the people who are fighting and dying right now.’

The Ukrainian described the atmosphere of the event as ‘one of the nicest’ she had attended, adding that it had felt like a ‘home tournament’. 

Ranked number 52 entering last week, the Ukrainian has now risen to a career high of number 40 following her win.

Kostyuk, who was eighth-seeded in the event, and the unseeded Moscow native Gracheva, were both playing in their first ever tour-level title match. 

Kostyuk regularly posts updates on the war in her homeland, and has been defiant in her criticism of Russian and Belarusian opponents since Putin’s troops were sent into Ukraine last year. 

The win was clearly an emotional one for Kostyuk, as the war continues to rage on at home in Ukraine

The win was clearly an emotional one for Kostyuk, as the war continues to rage on at home in Ukraine

During the trophy ceremony, the Kyiv native said: 'Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say Slava Ukraini.'

During the trophy ceremony, the Kyiv native said: ‘Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say Slava Ukraini.’

Following the match, Kostyuk was seen shaking hands with the umpire but passed her opponent by

Following the match, Kostyuk was seen shaking hands with the umpire but passed her opponent by

At the Australian Open in Melbourne in January, she was adamant that she would snub any competitors who did not take a clear stance against the war. 

‘I haven’t changed about the war and everything that’s going on, on tour,’ Kostyuk said at the Open.

‘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.’

Outside of matches, Kostyuk explained that she barely spoke to Russian and Belarusian players on the tour.

‘Whoever speaks out clearly I believe has every right to be on tour but whoever doesn’t… I don’t think it’s just humane,’ she said.

‘I don’t really talk to anyone. I barely say ‘hi’ to them.’

She first made the protest at the US Open 2022 in New York, when she refused to shake hands with former world number one Viktoria Azarenka, 33, who is from Belarus.

Kostyuk defeated Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5 to win her maiden main tour title at the tournament in Austin, Texas on Sunday

Kostyuk defeated Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5 to win her maiden main tour title at the tournament in Austin, Texas on Sunday

Russian player Varvara Gracheva, 22, lost in the WTA final to Kostyuk. Pictured here during the during the semifinals

Russian player Varvara Gracheva, 22, lost in the WTA final to Kostyuk. Pictured here during the during the semifinals

Instead of shaking hands at the net, Kostyuk opted for a quick racquet tap, as she felt it was inappropriate to shake hands given Azarenka’s failure to condemn the war. 

‘It was my choice — I don’t 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,’ she told ESPN at a news conference after the game

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

The death toll has risen to 13, according to Kurtiev, and rescuers continued to search for survivors in the rubble yesterday

The death toll has risen to 13, according to Kurtiev, and rescuers continued to search for survivors in the rubble yesterday

Pictres from Saturday show rescuers carrying the body of a person found at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a recent Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia

Pictres from Saturday show rescuers carrying the body of a person found at a site of a residential building heavily damaged by a recent Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia

The athlete has been vocal about the atrocities which have taken place in her country since Vladimir Putin sent his forces in just over a year ago, and uses social media to highlight the impact of Russian attacks.

Over the weekend, the tennis player reshared aerial footage which shows the ruins left of Maryinka, a city in Donetsk, where the front line runs through the little that is left of the town.

Kostyuk also retweeted pictures from the aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a residential area in Zaporizhzhia, in southern Ukraine.

Today has been declared a day of mourning after a rocket hit a high-rise residential building on Thursday, the city council’s secretary Anatoliy Kurtiev said.

Aerial footage reveals the ruins left of Maryinka, in Donetsk, where the front line runs through the little that is left of the town

Aerial footage reveals the ruins left of Maryinka, in Donetsk, where the front line runs through the little that is left of the town

The death toll has risen to 13, according to Kurtiev, and rescuers continued to search for survivors in the rubble yesterday.

Elsewhere in the embattled country, Russian forces continue in their efforts to encircle the strategically important eastern town of Bakhmut.

The town in the Donbass region has been ‘nearly destroyed’ like the besieged port city of Mariupol as Russian forces surround it on three sides amid fierce street battles.

The town, around 400 miles south east of Kyiv, has for months been a prime target of Moscow’s grinding eastern offensive in the war.

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