Ukrainian player launches attack on WTA over Belarusian Victoria Azarenka's players' council role

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Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in action against Mayar Sherif of Egypt in her first round match on Day 3 at Roland Garros - Robert Prange/Getty Images
Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in action against Mayar Sherif of Egypt in her first round match on Day 3 at Roland Garros - Robert Prange/Getty Images

Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk has branded Belarusian Victoria Azarenka's position on the WTA’s players’ council “ridiculous” and hit out at their failure to consult her or her compatriots on the decision to strip Wimbledon of ranking points.

Two-time major champion Azarenka will not play at Wimbledon next month due to the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, but has continued in her role as a member of the WTA player council, which supported the ranking points decision made by the tours.

The 19-year-old Kostyuk hit out at the apparent conflict of interest in Azarenka being a part of leading decision making on behalf of the female tour.

"Victoria Azarenka is in the players' board, making decisions about points in Wimbledon, where she's not even participating, and saying that she has no personal interest in making decisions,” Kostyuk said.

“Just the fact that she's present there on the calls, doing whatever. It's ridiculous."

Kostyuk added that it has left her feeling invisible to the council that is supposed to represent her.

"I would say 80-85 per cent of the players had nothing to do with the [WTA] decision," she told Reuters after her first-round defeat by Mayar Sherif at the French Open on Tuesday. "It's so ridiculous I couldn't believe it. None of the players' representatives contacted me. None of them asked about my opinion, what I think. It's like Ukrainian players don't exist.

“I've been trying to be as vocal as possible but you feel hopeless most of the time about the situation."

On Monday Azarenka addressed her role on the council, saying "when I have any of those conversations, I don't look at myself and if I am affected, I look at the bigger picture", and her fellow council member Jessica Pegula said they were available to speak to any player about their concerns.

Kostyuk meanwhile praised world No 1 Iga Swiatek's support of Ukraine, by wearing a blue and yellow pin during her matches, but criticised the top men's players for denouncing the Wimbledon ban.

Iga Swiatek - Robert Prange/Getty Images
Iga Swiatek - Robert Prange/Getty Images

"I mean, look at what Rafa [Nadal] said, look at what Novak [Djokovic] said. How can you get the support from the tour when top three players say these things?"

There has been a noticeable split in player opinions in Paris this week, as a number bemoaned the points decision with some, including Naomi Osaka, suggesting they may skip Wimbledon as a result.

Meanwhile those on the ATP and WTA player councils defended it, including Australian veteran John Millman, who doubled down on Tuesday. He labelled Wimbledon‘s ban “discrimination” and said the lack of communication or consultation with players was the root of the issue: “Without really any consultation, a unilateral decision was made to ban players. It just goes against what tennis is about."

He added that Wimbledon's suggestion they had little choice but to follow government advice has been overblown: “I hate all conflict. But, also, I don’t like unilateral decisions. There was an opportunity to have the Russians (and) Belarusians play.

“There were two options - recommendations, not even laws - but recommendations [that were] given by the UK government. I heard whispers, ‘oh, it’s coming from the government’. If it’s coming from the government, get the British government to say ‘no, we’re banning them, we don’t want them to play’. Then I’d feel sorry for Wimbledon that they’re being pushed into a corner.”

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