Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk has defended her controversial post-match handshake snub of Victoria Azarenka after losing to the Belarusian in the second round of the US Open.
Azarenka dumped Kostyuk out of the tournament courtesy of a 6-2, 6-3 win played under the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.
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While there was no sign of animosity between the players during the match, the post-match interaction between the players told a slightly different story.
Rather than shaking her victorious opponent's hand afterwards, Kostyuk broke custom by merely holding out her racquet towards the Belarusian.
Both players briefly touched racquets before walking off court to shake hands with the chair umpire.
Kostyuk said she opted for the racquet touch as a way of expressing her frustration with Azarenka, accusing the 33-year-old WTA Tour veteran of not being more vocal against the conflict in Ukraine.
"I just don't think it's the right thing to do in the circumstances I'm in right now," the 20-year-old Ukrainian said.
"It was just my choice. I didn't feel like it."
Azarenka defeats Kostyuk 6-2, 6-3. No handshake, just a racket tap… pic.twitter.com/WogSSznz2t
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) September 1, 2022
Kostyuk said she had attempted to contact Azarenka by text message on Wednesday to warn her that she would not shake hands. However Azarenka was not available to discuss the issue, she said.
"I had things to tell her before the match," Kostyuk said. "I genuinely wanted to warn her that I'm not going to shake her hand.
"She never came up to me personally to tell me her opinion, what she thinks (about the war)."
Despite the frosty post-match moment, Kostyuk said she had no ill feeling towards Azarenka.
"I never had any personal hate towards her," she said.
"I just feel she has such a big role, outside of the tennis in Belarus, and inside tennis in the WTA Players Council.
"I feel like she could have done more."
Victoria Azarenka happy to move on after handshake snub
Azarenka said she was reluctant to dwell on the handshake snub, but hit back at suggestions she had not tried to reach out to Kostyuk.
"I've offered many times through the WTA, because I believe that there is a sort of sensitivity," Azarenka said.
"I've been told that that's not a good time. I don't have, or I never had a close relationship with Marta. I obviously know who she is, but I've never practiced with her. I've never really had a conversation with her.
"I feel like I've had a very clear message from the beginning, that I'm here to try to help. Maybe not something that people see. And that's not what I do it for.
"I do it for people who are in need, juniors who need clothes, other people who need money or other people who needed transportation or whatever.
"That's what is important to me, to help people are in need."
Last week, Azarenka was axed from an exhibition event on the eve of the US Open aimed at raising money for those affected by the war in Ukraine.
Azarenka was due to have joined the fundraiser, which was timed to coincide with Ukraine's Independence Day celebrations.
However, Kostyuk was one of a number of Ukrainian players who opposed plans for Azarenka to participate, with the Belarusian eventually removed from the event.
Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon in response to the war. They are allowed to play at the US Open, albeit without their nations or their flags being listed.
— Monica Salazar (@moni_88) September 1, 2022
Yastremska and Kostyuk utterly so disrespectful to a player who has zero control of what their government does. Condemn their government not Azarenka
— ☘️ (@returnofserve) September 1, 2022
Kostyuk should grow up!
— Wiktor (@EkspertPL) September 1, 2022
Slightly more to it than that.
Azarenka wanted to take part in the 'Rally for Peace' last week to show her support to Ukraine.
Kostyuk and other Ukrainians kicked up a stink because she's Belarussian. Azarenka's invitation was revoked.
Kostyuk was pissed off at the USTA.
— Paul Coffield (@PaulCoffield4) September 1, 2022
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