Misc Tennis

French Open 2023: Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka doesn’t expect handshake from Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk

Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka returns the ball against Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk in Dubai

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka played Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in Dubai in February 2022, shortly before Russia’s invasion
Venue: Roland Garros, Paris Dates: 28 May-11 June
Coverage: Live text and radio commentaries of selected matches across BBC Radio 5 Sports Extra, the BBC Sport website and app

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka says she “cannot do anything” if Ukrainian opponent Marta Kostyuk “hates” her because of her nation’s support of Russia’s invasion.

World number two Sabalenka expects Kostyuk not to shake hands after their French Open first-round match.

Belarus is an ally of Russia and allowed troops to use its territory to launch last year’s invasion of Ukraine.

“If they feel good not shaking hands, I’m happy with that,” said Sabalenka.

The 25-year-old Sabalenka is aiming to claim back-to-back Grand Slam titles at Roland Garros after winning the first major of her career at the Australian Open in January.

The Belarusian also has the opportunity to become WTA world number one for the first time, overtaking Poland’s Iga Swiatek at the top of the rankings.

Sabalenka has previously said “no-one supports war” and reiterated in Paris on Friday she would stop it if she could.

Kostyuk, 20, refused to shake hands with Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka at last year’s US Open and also said seeing Russian flags being waved by supporters of Vladimir Putin at the Australian Open in January “hurt a lot”.

Asked about Kostyuk’s reaction when they play in the first round on Sunday, Sabalenka added: “I don’t want to waste my energy on this kind of stuff.

“It’s none of my business, you know. If she hates me, OK. I can’t do anything about that.

“There are going to be people who love me, there are going to be people who hate me. If she hates me, I don’t feel anything like that to her.

“I kind of understand why they are not shaking hands. At the same time, I feel like sports shouldn’t be in politics, we’re just athletes.”

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