During their first round match at the French Open, Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk declined to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka. This resulted in some of the audience booing.
After Sabalenka won with a score of 6-3 6-2, Kostyuk went directly to the umpire to shake their hand and then returned to her seat, choosing not to meet Sabalenka at the net for the usual handshake.
The audience at Roland Garros responded with disapproval, and once again as Kostyuk exited the court.
Kostyuk, who hails from Kyiv, stated during the Australian Open in January that she would not engage in handshakes with opponents from Russia or Belarus due to the ongoing conflict in her country.
During her post-match press conference, Sabalenka faced challenging inquiries. One reporter even accused her of misrepresenting the situation by suggesting that Ukrainians hold animosity towards her and avoiding questions about condemning the war, considering Belarus’ involvement in Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
In March, Sabalenka expressed confusion over the animosity she faced in the locker room due to tensions among players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Initially, when I am asked about Ukrainians, journalists often inquire: “Do you know that they despise you?” I typically respond by saying: “If that is the case.”
I have expressed multiple times that nobody, including Russian and Belarusian athletes, supports the war situation. It is impossible for us to support such violence and normal people would never do so either.
“Why do we have to go loud [public] and say things, that’s like saying ‘one plus one is two,’ you know, of course we don’t support war. And if you could affect the war in any way, if we could stop it, we would do it, but unfortunately it’s not in our hands.”
Sabalenka stated that she comprehends why Ukrainian players choose not to shake her hand and expressed that Kostyuk did not deserve to be jeered by the audience.
At present, Russian and Belarusian athletes are participating in tournaments as neutral players, without their national flag or country being represented.
In March, Kostyuk emerged victorious at the ATX Open in Texas. However, she declined to shake hands with her defeated Russian opponent, Varvara Gracheva.