29th May 2023 – (Paris) The international tennis championship at Roland Garros in Paris was marked by tensions stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk faced Belarusian opponent Aryna Sabalenka in the first round on Sunday. Kostyuk, a 20-year-old rising star in women’s tennis, has previously criticised the decision by tennis authorities to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals after the start of the conflict in Ukraine. As a result, Kostyuk has refused to shake hands with her Russian and Belarusian opponents.
Sabalenka, who is ranked number two in women’s tennis and considered one of the favorites for the final victory, was cheered by supporters as she took a bow at the end of the game. However, Kostyuk was booed by the crowd after she walked away from Sabalenka at the end of the match.
In an interview after the game, Sabalenka said that she understands her opponents’ decision not to shake hands. “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,” Sabalenka said. “If she hates me, OK. I can’t do anything about that,” she added.
The tensions between Ukraine and Russia have spilled over into the world of sports, with Ukrainian athletes often expressing their opposition to Russian and Belarusian athletes participating as neutrals. Kostyuk’s refusal to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent highlights the ongoing tension and political sensitivities surrounding international sports competitions.