Aryna Sabalenka says Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk “didn’t deserve” to be booed off the pitch after refusing to shake hands at the end of their French Open clash.
World No 2 Belarus, who won 6-3 6-2 to advance to the second round in Paris, was unsurprised by the snub, which drew boos from a small Court Philippe crowd Chatter.
Kostyuk had previously made it known that she would not shake hands with her tour rivals from Russia and Belarus – which is a playground for Moscow’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine – if she felt they weren’t. had not sufficiently expressed their opposition.
“I understand why they don’t shake hands with us,” Sabalenka said. “I can imagine if they shake hands with us, what will happen to them on the Ukrainian side.
“I understand it’s not personal. I don’t think she deserved to leave court in this way.”
Sabalenka admitted she was initially taken aback by the reaction from onlookers and bowed sarcastically to them, but then thanked them for their support.
“I didn’t understand what was happening because we all know Ukrainian girls won’t shake hands with us. So it’s not a surprise to us, but today’s audience was probably surprised” , added the young woman of 25 years.
“They saw it as a lack of respect towards me as a player, that’s why there were boos – at first I thought they were booing me. I was a bit confused.
“Then I realized what was happening and said thank you to the audience. I felt sorry for what I did at first.
“No one, normal people will ever support it (the war). Why do we have to speak loudly and say this? If it could affect the war, if it could stop it, we would. But unfortunately, it’s not not in our hands.”
Kostyuk suggested that the section of fans who laughed at her might feel differently in years to come and made it clear that she did not expect a similar response at the next Grand Slam at Wimbledon later this summer. .
“I want to see people react to it in 10 years when the war is over. I think they won’t really feel good about what they did.
“Wimbledon banned them (Russian and Belarusian players) last year and when I was in the UK people reacted differently towards us, even on the streets.
“I felt a lot of support. I’m pretty sure the reaction would be different.”