Ukrainian tennis star refuses handshake after losing to Russian opponent

Ukrainian tennis star refuses handshake after losing to Russian opponent

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk refused to shake the hand of Anastasia Potapova after she was defeated by the Russian at the Miami Open.

The 20-year-old has been a vocal critic of Russian and Belarusian players being allowed to continue to play on the WTA Tour, and has previously spoken of her disapproval of players who refuse to condemn the invasion of her country.

Kostyuk has also refused to shake hands with Russia’s Varvara Gracheva and the Belarusian player Victoria Azarenka.

Russian Potapova was warned by the WTA after wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt at Indian Wells earlier this month. Lesia Tsurenko withdrew from the same tournament after having a panic attack, with the Ukrainian player due to face Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in her next match.

Both incidents led to world number one Iga Swiatek calling for more support for Ukrainian players from the WTA. After losing to Potapova and refusing to shake the Russian’s hand, Kostyuk said Ukrainian players have yet to hear from the WTA after requesting the chance to discuss their concerns.

“Yes, we wanted to have the meeting with the board and we didn’t get one. No reply, nothing, just silence,” Kostyuk said. “Before the meeting, I don’t think it’s a good idea to talk about what we want to talk about there.”

Potapova was criticised by Poland’s Swiatek for wearing the Spartak Moscow shirt at Indian Wells, with the world number one saying that Russian players should not show support for the country during the war.

When asked about the warning Potapova received for wearing the shirt, Kostyuk said: “There are a lot of things that I don’t agree with that the WTA is doing. This is not going to change anything.

"I’ll just get more hate online. Whatever I say, I will get a lot of hate. I don’t know. Warning, whatever. You give her a warning... You can suspend someone, I don’t know. I can’t comment on that really, it’s just funny."

Anastasia Potapova wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt at Indian Wells (@anapotapovaa)
Anastasia Potapova wearing a Spartak Moscow shirt at Indian Wells (@anapotapovaa)

The 21-year-old Potapova said she has supported Russian Premier League team Spartak Moscow since she was 13 and said she saw no provocation in it.

The head of the WTA, Steve Simon, told the BBC at Indian Wells that the organisation is doing all it is able to do to support Ukrainian players during the invasion of the country.

Under WTA rules, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete on the Tour. However the flags of the two nations do not appear alongside competing individuals.

The Lawn Tennis Association and the All England Club are currently weighing whether to allow players from the two countries to play at this summer’s grass events in the United Kingdom.

Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon last year, resulting in the stripping of ranking points from the tournament and a fine.