Ukrainian Tennis Stars Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko Speak Out Against Russian and Belarusian Opponents

Ukrainian Tennis Stars Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko Speak Out Against Russian and Belarusian Opponents

Australian Open continues to be a platform for Ukrainian tennis players Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko to draw attention to the ongoing challenges faced by their country amid Russia’s invasion. Almost two years into the conflict, the athletes maintain their stance of avoiding post-match handshakes with opponents from Russia or Belarus, the latter being used as a staging ground for the invasion.

Ukrainian Tennis Stars Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko Speak Out Against Russian and Belarusian Opponents
Ukrainian Tennis Stars Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko Speak Out Against Russian and Belarusian Opponents

Kostyuk, reaching the Australian Open fourth round for the first time after defeating Russia’s Elina Avanesyan 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, focused on the hardships faced by her family in Ukraine. She shared the emotional impact of receiving videos from her mother showing missiles flying over their house. “People are incredibly depressed now and tired. I try to do my best. I compete and I try to succeed,” she said, emphasizing the perspective the situation brings to playing tennis.

Tsurenko, after a 6-0, 6-0 defeat to Belarussian No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, reiterated the difficulty of playing against opponents from Russia or Belarus, referring to them as part of the “war machine hurting my country and my people.” Expressing her struggle, Tsurenko finds it challenging to form relationships with Russian and Belarussian players on tour, especially when many have not privately condemned the war in Ukraine.

Sabalenka, responding to the Ukrainian players’ stance, expressed understanding and respect, noting that Tsurenko, despite not shaking hands, was “quite respectful” after their match. Kostyuk’s upcoming fourth-round match is against another Russian opponent, Maria Timofeeva, continuing the unique dynamics on the court amid the geopolitical tensions.

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