Ukraine tennis star Marta Kostyuk has followed through on her vow not to shake the hands of her Russian opponents after claiming her maiden WTA title in final of the ATX Open in Texas. The 20-year-old beat Russia's Varvara Gracheva 6-3 7-5 in an error-strewn final, before dedicating the milestone win to her countrymen fighting the war against Russia in Ukraine.
Both players were competing in a tour-level title match for the first time and it showed throughout a nervy two sets. The pair combined for 13 breaks of serve, with both winning less than 50 percent of their points on serve.
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A sea-sawing first set saw eight of the nine games go against serve, including five consecutive breaks to begin the match. Ultimately, it was 20-year-old Kostyuk's lone hold which proved enough to take the opening stanza and the ascendancy in the final.
In a match that included a combined 14 double faults from both players, it was Gracheva who pulled ahead 5-3 in the second set as she tried to force a decider. Having saved a set point though, Kostyuk broke back to square it up at 5-5, before rattling off the final four games of the match to claim her maiden WTA title.
The eighth-seed dropped to the court as she was overcome with emotion, and did not meet her Russian opponent at the net for the traditional post-match handshake. The telling snub did not go unnoticed by fans on social media.
A first WTA title for 20 year-old Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.
Champion in Austin with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Varvara Gracheva, from Russia.
There was no handshake between the two afterwards. pic.twitter.com/5qYDhHrl4P
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) March 5, 2023
No handshake between Kostyuk and Gracheva. Ukraine beats Russia
— Lisa (@furryyelloballs) March 5, 2023
— wta (@WTA) March 5, 2023
— Stephen Benson (@srbtennis13) March 5, 2023
Kostyuk 🇺🇦 winning a 1st WTA title... 😳🤭
No handshake between them: maybe didnt feel comfortable given the situation, maybe it became awkward as Varvara was already packing her rackets in her bag when Marta was celebrating
— Siem 🇳🇱 (@SiemBlueboom) March 5, 2023
— Rick Harris (@LongWordMonthly) March 5, 2023
Two years and a war later, no handshake at the net after the match, and Marta Kostyuk dedicates her first WTA title “to Ukraine and to all the people that are fighting and dying right now.” https://t.co/UkV7mRQy9R
— Thierry Côté (@tcote) March 5, 2023
Marta Kostyuk dedicates win to people of Ukraine
Kostyuk had declared she would not be shaking the hands of opponents from Russia and Belarus, following the invasion of Ukraine by President Vladimir Putin's forces more than a year ago. Speaking after the match, Kostyuk's thoughts were clear when addressing the plight of her compatriots in the bloody and devastating war with Russia.
"Being in the position that I am in right now, it's extremely special to win this title," Kostyuk said during Sunday's trophy ceremony in Austin. "And I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and to all the people that are fighting and dying right now."
Kostyuk, who came into the day ranked 52nd, became the third first-time champion on the women's tour in 2023. She only needed to beat one seeded opponent en route to the title, eliminating fourth seed Danielle Collins in the semi-final to set up a showdown against her 88th-ranked Russian opponent.
The Ukrainian's 'special' moment came when Gracheva sent a forehand long to hand victory to Kostyuk, who dropped to her knees at the baseline, put her hands on her face and cried in delight. "Obviously," said Kostyuk, who was the junior champion at the 2017 Australian Open, "it's a very special moment."
Kostyuk is set to surpass her career-best ranking of World No.45 when the next set of figures are released.
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