Boos against Ukrainian Kostjuk in Paris “People should be ashamed” – Sport

It was clear that it would be an emotional match this Sunday from 11 a.m. in the west of Paris. On one side stood Aryna Sabalenka, the Belarusian, on the other Marta Kostyuk, the Ukrainian. Kostjuk is one of a group of players from her country who have repeatedly condemned the wartime aggressors Russia and Belarus and who tirelessly fight for more understanding and support for Ukrainian professionals on the tennis tour. Of course, you didn’t have to be a prophet if there would be no handshake at the end of this duel at the net, as has become everyday practice for Ukrainian professionals when they meet opponents from Russia and Belarus. But then the ending turned out to be very different, with a bitter note for Kostyuk.

At first, the 20-year-old from Kiev, number 28 in the world rankings, kept up in this first game of the French Open on the Philippe-Chatrier court, even leading 3-2 with a break. But in the long run she was powerless against the hard blows of the current Australian Open winner. She lost 3:6, 2:6, unsurprisingly went straight to the referee after the match point and shook her hand. It could have ended like this.

But it didn’t. Suddenly spectators booed. The derogatory shouts were aimed at Kostyuk.

French Open: Held a notable press conference: Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

Held a notable press conference: Marta Kostyuk from Ukraine.

(Photo: Christophe Ena/dpa)

Later, at her press conference, Sabalenka tried to describe the events in a de-escalating manner. “No one in the world, Russian athletes and Belarusian athletes, supports the war,” said Sabalenka, audibly touched in her voice. “Why do we have to get loud and say these things – it’s like one plus one makes two.” And no, her opponent didn’t deserve this resignation, she said at the very end, a little hesitantly and only when explicitly asked, but she actually said this sentence.

The 25-year-old from Minsk, who could become number one for the first time in the most important clay-court tournament, said everyone knows that the Ukrainian pros don’t shake hands. She understood them and attributed this non-action to the fact that the Ukrainian athletes would otherwise have problems at home. But, she suspects, the audience in Paris doesn’t know that this refusal to shake hands on the part of the Ukrainian professionals is now established on the tour. Spectators would therefore have perceived Kostjuk’s gestureless farewell as an unsportsmanlike action.

Sabalenka laughed when she learned that she wasn’t being booed

The confusion and excitement after the match was contributed to by the fact that Sabalenka made a jubilant gesture on the pitch, which was very misleading. She made an arcing motion with her hand, as if she were a singer in an opera. Her explanation was that at first she thought she was the one who was booed. And so she responded with this gesture towards the audience. But when she found out from her supervisor box that Kostjuk had been mocked, she found it so relieved that she thanked the audience for their support in the first interviews on the pitch. She laughed, she found it all rather amusing at first. But maybe one shouldn’t be too strict with Sabalenka. It doesn’t take much of a reason to cheer her up. She is, as they say, cheerful.

Unsurprisingly, Kostjuk assessed these minutes of the follow-up in a completely different way, finding little positive in the audience’s reaction, nor did she want to let Sabalenka get away with her rather generally euphonious words. In a 20-minute press conference, she calmly explained her point of view. She didn’t want to say anything to the audience, but then indirectly did so when she said: “I want to see people in ten years how they will react when the war is over. I don’t think they will feel really good about that what they did.” She finally said specifically, and you could feel how upset she was: “People should really be ashamed. But that’s not my decision.” She will not extend her hand to opponents from Russia and Belarus in the future either: “I said I wouldn’t do it and I don’t understand why people think I would suddenly change my perspective.”

She asked the journalists in the packed Press Room 2 to change their questions and not to be satisfied with generally applicable statements. One should ask Sabalenka personally who she would like to win in the war. In any case, she knows players who are clearly for the war, which implies that they are on the side of Russia and Belarus.

Kostjuk learned at five in the morning about the 54 drone attacks on Kiev

The atmosphere was oppressive when Kostjuk talked about how she found out about the latest attacks by Russia. On Sunday night, her hometown of Kiev was attacked with 54 drones. Kostjuk always tries to turn off the cell phone at night, the war has long been part of her life. But at five in the morning she saw that messages were constantly coming in. She knew then that something bad had happened. With such news in mind, Kostyuk entered this match.

Kostjuk also responded to Sabalenka’s description that there was nothing she could do to end the war with an emphatically formulated suggestion. “She might become number one in the world here, in one of the most famous sports in the world,” she said. Sabalenka has access to large audiences, she is heard through media like that New York Times and CNN, via social media. Anyone who values ​​it can take a position anywhere via these paths and channels. “Just by saying something, she can already send a message.”

The French Open, that was clear after this match and two extraordinary press conferences, really did not start in such a way that one could speak of a happy start. In Wimbledon, that wasn’t meant as a tip, but almost sounded like it, don’t expect Kostjuk to boo. Sabalenka also said, and maybe it was formulated more as a pious wish, that sport and politics shouldn’t be mixed up. But the events surrounding her victory have shown that the reality out there always catches up with the tennis world, which likes to present itself as a perfect world.


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