Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk lashed out Thursday at the tennis world’s response to the Russian invasion of her homeland, saying anti-war platitudes weren’t enough for a country plunged into turmoil and fear.
Kostyuk saved two match points in an emotional 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (8/6), 7-5 victory over Ukrainian-born Belgian Maryna Zanevska in the first round at the Indian Wells WTA Masters.
But she admitted that she thought about not taking the court at all over the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
“Honestly, in the current mental state that I’m in, it was very tough to go on court,” the 19-year-old said. “I didn’t know what to expect from myself, I didn’t know what to expect from my body. When I woke up this morning I thought, ‘I’m not going to do it, I can’t win it,’” Kostyuk said.
“I just tried to find a way. She was playing amazing, amazing tennis. My main goal was to fight and I fought. It was a tough comeback. … Everyone is fighting how they fight. My job is playing tennis and this is the biggest way I can help in the current situation.”
Kostyuk and Zanevska—who was born in Odessa but has played for Belgium since 2016 — exchanged a long hug after the match.
“Her parents are in Ukraine. They’re in a calmer area but everyone is afraid,” Kostyuk said. “I told her she played unbelievable and that everything is going to be okay. Our parents are going to be okay.”
But Kostyuk isn’t alright with the measures taken by global tennis authorities in response to the war.
The ATP and WTA tournaments set to be held in Moscow in October have been suspended and the International Tennis Federation has barred both countries from the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup team events.
But Russian and Belarusian tennis players can still compete at ATP and WTA tournaments and Grand Slam events, although they can’t compete under the name or flag of either country.
“I don’t agree with the action that has been taken,” Kostyuk said.
“Look at the other sports, look at the big sports, what they did, that’s it,” she added, an apparent reference to stringent measures in sports including football, which has suspended Russian national teams and clubs from international competitions.
Kostyuk has also been unimpressed by the response of individual players—such as Russia’s men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev – who deplore war but don’t specifically condemn the invasion.
“You cannot be neutral in this,” she said. “These ‘No war’ statements they hurt me because they have no substance’,” she said.
“Seeing (Russian) players on-site really hurts me. And seeing them having the only problem not being able to transfer the money and stuff – that’s what they are talking about – this is unacceptable for me.”