Sabalenka keeps cool to win politically-charged duel

3 months ago 15

Belarusian prima faces handshake snub from Ukrainian Kostyuk aft 6-3, 6-2 victory


Aryna Sabalenka kept her chill to triumph a politically-charged French Open duel against Marta Kostyuk connected Sunday arsenic jeers rained down aft the defeated Ukrainian refused to shingle hands with her Belarusian opponent.

World fig 2 and Australian Open champion Sabalenka swept 10 of the past 12 games to triumph 6-3, 6-2 arsenic she kick-started her propulsion to scope the 2nd week successful Paris for the archetypal time.

Kostyuk honoured her pledge not to shingle hands with Sabalenka successful protestation astatine Russia's penetration of Ukraine. Belarus is simply a cardinal subject state of Moscow.

"It was a precise pugnacious match, pugnacious emotionally. I didn't cognize if the booing was against maine but convey you truthful overmuch for your support, it's truly important," said Sabalenka who performed a theatrical bow to the sparse Court Philippe Chatrier crowd.

Kostyuk, 20, famously refused to shingle hands with Sabalenka's Belarusian compatriot and erstwhile satellite fig 1 Victoria Azarenka astatine the US Open past year.

She opted alternatively for a cursory interaction of racquets astatine the net.

The 39th-ranked Kostyuk has been a vociferous professional of the determination to let Russian and Belarusian players to support competing connected circuit since the penetration of her country.

"If she hates me, OK. I can't bash thing astir that," said 25-year-old Sabalenka connected the eve of the match.

"About the nary shaking, I tin benignant of recognize them. Like I ideate if they're going to shingle hands with Russians and Belarusians, past they're gonna get truthful galore messages from their location countries. If they consciousness bully with nary shaking hands, I'm blessed with that."

This twelvemonth sees a caller epoch astatine the French Open wherever for the archetypal clip since 2004 Rafael Nadal volition not grace the celebrated reddish clay.

Injured Nadal, the 14-time champion, sits retired the 2023 variation of a tourney wherever helium has mislaid conscionable 3 of 115 matches.

In his absence, Novak Djokovic, a two-time winner, and the antheral liable for 2 of Nadal's 3 vocation losses successful Paris, volition look to borderline up of the Spaniard with a record-setting 23rd major.

However, helium faces superior threats from the likes of Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev, presently the world's apical 2 players up of Djokovic.

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