US Open: Tennis should have done more to address tensions caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, says Swiatek

·3-min read

Iga Swiatek suggested there has been a lack of leadership at the top of tennis in how to deal with Russia's invasion of Ukraine after Victoria Azarenka was shunned by Marta Kostyuk at the US Open on Thursday.

Ukrainian Kostyuk elected not to shake hands with Azarenka following a second-round defeat at Flushing Meadows, instead merely tapping rackets.

That came after Kostyuk criticised the Belarusian for participating in a charity match for Ukraine, before the United States Tennis Association announced she would no longer be involved.

Belarus maintains close ties with Russia and has been under sanction from western nations for supporting Vladimir Putin after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March.

Both situations led to a frosty atmosphere following the conclusion of the tie, which Azarenka won 6-2 6-3.

Asked if anything could be done to address tensions between players on the tour, world number one Swiatek, who booked her place in the third round with a 6-3 6-2 win over Sloane Stephens, said: "Well, basically I think it's already too late. I mean, it's never too late, you know, but I think the best time for ATP or WTA to do anything was when the war started, and where the tension was pretty big in the locker rooms.

"I think right now it's already pretty messed up, and maybe next time it's gonna be easier for us to handle it if somebody is going to guide us and somebody is going to even arrange some meetings between players and showing that we should be united.

"Even though there are countries who are invading other countries, we are tennis players. It's sad but it's not our fault that it's happening. Yeah, I think it would be much, much easier at the beginning to do that.

"Right now, it's kind of too late to fix that. But I think it's just in between players and their personal relationships how you're going to handle it and how you're going to communicate to each other.

"But from my case, right now it's easy to say that maybe there was lack of leadership, but at that time I didn't know what to do either. But there are smarter people than me, so they should kind of have an idea."

Victory over Stephens means Swiatek has now won 52 matches in 2022. The last players with more WTA-level wins in a single campaign were Ash Barty (57) and Kiki Bertens (55) in 2019.

Serena Williams is dominating the headlines, though, in what is likely to be her last tournament before retirement – a situation Swiatek is more than happy with.

Asked if she felt like she was flying under the radar, Swiatek said: "Maybe a little bit, yeah, for sure. You can see the difference than on Roland Garros and on Wimbledon when I came back after winning Roland Garros.

"But I would say it doesn't really matter for me. If I'm going to play well and if I'm going to do my work on court, I know I will be fine in terms of everything that's going around.

"But, yeah, Serena totally deserves it and it's pretty obvious for me that she's going to be in the spotlight in this tournament. That's kind of her time right now. I'm just playing and focusing on that, and that's the most important thing for me."

Swiatek will face Lauren Davis in the next round after the American beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 0-6 6-4 7-6 (10-5).