Ukrainian tennis star refuses to compete in final against 16-year-old Russian

Ukrainian tennis ace Marta Kostyuk pulled out of a match against Russian rising star Mirra Andreeva in the final of the 2023 Negometal Open de Bourg-de-Peage tournament. The world No.39 was set to play the 16 year old after stepping in for Donna Vekic.

Kostyuk, who won the 2023 ATX Open, was due to play in the French exhibition tournament’s final. Andreeva had secured her spot in the final by defeating Varvara Gracheva. However, Kostyuk withdrew just hours before the match was due to start on Sunday at 12:30pm local time.

Normally, Ukrainian players on the Tour do play against Russians, choosing not to shake hands before and after matches. But as this was an exhibition tournament, Kostyuk wasn’t required to play and pulled out due to reasons ‘beyond the will’ of the organisers.

The tournament’s spokespeople confirmed in a statement that Kostyuk’s decision not to play against her scheduled opponent in the final was due to the ‘geopolitical context in Ukraine’. They also admitted they struggled to find a replacement at such short notice.

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Their statement said: “Due to reasons beyond our will and given the geopolitical context in Ukraine, Marta Kostyuk will not be able to compete in the final of the sixth edition of Negometal Open. We’ve done our best to activate our network of professional players, but the time is unfortunately too short to find a replacement.”

In the end, Yanis Ghazouani Durand stepped in for the final, creating an unexpected battle of the sexes at the French venue. Andreeva found it tough against her new male opponent, losing 7-5, 6-2.

When asked about not playing the match, Kostyuk told Ubitennis: “I prefer not to comment on this matter. Thank you for understanding”. She has previously been vocal about the war back home in Ukraine and even avoided shaking hands with Aryna Sabalenka at the French Open earlier this year.

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After being booed for not shaking hands, she said she felt “honestly embarrassed” by the crowd’s reaction. She added: “I want to see people react to it in 10 years when the war is over. I think they will not feel really nice about what they did.”

Discussing her decision not to shake hands with Sabalenka, she mentioned: “Someone like Aryna, who is travelling the world, she has a big platform of people who support her. I speak out about things and I see, like, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, BBC.

“There are so many platforms that millions, billions of people in the world read. And just to reject her responsibility of having an opinion on the most important things in the world, I cannot respect it.”

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