Ukrainian pro defends Marta Kostyuk for shunning Russian opponent

Retired Ukrainian pro Alexandr Dolgopolov has leapt to Marta Kostyuk’s defence after the world No 40 refused to shake hands with her Russian opponent or pose for photos after winning the ATX Open on Sunday. Kostyuk has come under fire for her decision and the 34-year-old told those questioning her to “be quiet”.

Kostyuk made an impact when she decided not to shake hands with her Texas finals opponent Varvara Gracheva after defeating the world No 66 6-3 7-5 to win the inaugural ATX Open. The Kyiv native also refused to pose for photos with her Russian rival before or after the match, despite the tradition of winners and runners-up taking pictures together following a trophy ceremony.

The title marked the first of Kostyuk’s young career and the 20-year-old dedicated her victory to her home nation, telling the crowd: “I want to thank everybody who is watching in Ukraine. 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 to all the people who are fighting and dying right now. It’s a very special moment, no matter when it happens.”

The Ukrainian has been outspoken against the war since her nation was first invaded by Russia over a year ago but some on social media questioned Kostyuk’s decision to shun Gracheva on Sunday, and another Ukrainian tennis star has jumped to her defence. Dolgopolov has slammed those trying to undermine Kostyuk’s statement, tweeting: “I see, some still don’t get it.”

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The retired former No 13 also reposted a tweet he shared of a baby that had been killed in a civilian building, adding: “Tell this girl about the handshake, also the families of every one killed daily, about all those good and poor Russians, who have nothing to do with it, surely they don’t have family or friends who voted for Putin.. yet tennis let them be silent.”

Like Kostyuk, Dolgopolov has remained outspoken on social media during the war and continues to draw attention to the situation in his home nation. Explaining why the WTA world No 40’s move was important to make a statement, he added: “Putin has giant support in Russia, we have numerous facts that even many tennis players themselves support their government and nothing has been done, tennis failed to keep the sport away from genocide, so better be quiet about your hand shakes and sportsmanship clownshow.”

The three-time title winner doubled down on his message to be quiet in a third tweet as he continued: “Oh and apart from being silent accomplices and taxpayers and voters and etc., until you don’t have proof that their relatives or friends are not killing, my relatives, friends or Ukrainians daily here and fighting myself, just be quiet please, because it sounds pathetic.”

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It’s not the first time Kostyuk has taken a stand against her Russian and Belarusian colleagues, as she was part of a group of Ukrainians including the likes of Elina Svitolina who praised Wimbledon for banning players from the two nations last year, calling on other events to do the same. During the US Open, she also refused to shake Belarusian star Victoria Azarenka’s hand and called the USTA out for including the former world No 1 in the lineup for a charity match held for Ukraine.

“When we found out that there would be representatives of Russia or Belarus at this event, I immediately said that I will not participate in this,” she said, with the US Open later announcing that Azarenka would no longer take part in the exhibition.

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