Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk last night refused to shake her Russian opponent’s hand 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 sobbed on the court after beating Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5 in the final of the ATX Open in Austin, Texas.
In the tearful interview afterwards, 52nd-ranked Ms 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 Ms Gracheva as she ran across the court to celebrate with fans.
Ms 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.
At the Australian Open in January, Ms 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.
She also refused to shake hands at the US Open with Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.
Following her win last night, Ms 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.’
She 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, she has now risen to a career high of 40 following her win.