(May 28, 2023) No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and No. 5 men’s seed Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the second round of the French Open on the first day of the tournament in Paris on Sunday.
The reigning Australian Open champion, Sabalenka had an easy time with Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine 6-3, 6-2 on Chatrier court. Kostyuk refused to shake Sabalenka’s hand at the end of the match due to Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russians’ supported by a military operation Belarus. Kostyuk had made it known that she would not shake hands with players from Russia and Belarus. French fans booed Kostyuk after she refused to shake hands.
Kostyuk feels that Sabalenka needs to demonstrate her stance on the war.
“I feel like you should ask these players who would they want to win the war because if you ask this question, I’m not so sure these people will say that they want Ukraine to win,” the 20-year-old said in her news conference.
“She (Sabalenka) never says that she personally doesn’t support this war, and I feel like journalists should change the questions that you ask these athletes because the war is already there. It’s been 15 months since the war has begun.”
“Just by speaking out, I think she can just send some message because most of these people, they haven’t even ever left the country,” she said.
“Someone like Aryna…just to reject her responsibility of having an opinion on the most important things in the world, I cannot respect it. “I don’t respect her because of her position in this situation.”
Sabalenka responded in news conference:
I understand why they’re not shaking hands with us. I can imagine if they shake hands with us, what’s going to happen to them from the Ukrainian side. I understand that this isn’t personal. That’s it,” Sabalenka said.
“How can we support the war? Nobody, normal people will never support it.”
No. 5 seed and 2021 finalist, Tsitsipas survived a more than three-hour test from the Czech Jiri Vesely, winning the match 7-5 6-3 4-6 7-6(7) win over Czech Jiri Vesely on Sunday.
“I said to myself there’s no chance this is going to a fifth set,” said the Greek of the 445th-ranked Vesely. “That’s what I told myself,” Tsitsipas said. “Jiri was a difficult obstacle. He gave me a hard time and I am happy I overcame it in such a fashion.”
“Today’s win is a very important for me,” said Tsitsipas. “I felt at times I was not going to the ball, I was staying still. When I took charge that was the moment I made that switch and won the match.”
There were a few upsets on Sunday with eighth seed Maria Sakkari falling to Karolina Muchova 7-6 (5), 7-5. Also knocked out of Paris were No. 21 Magda Linette, and No. 26 Dan Evans and No. 29 Shuai Zhang,
More to follow…