Marta Kostyuk unloads on Russian players and their 'shocking' approach

Kostyuk doesn't think Russian players have done anything to show they don't support what is happening in Ukraine.

by Dzevad Mesic
Marta Kostyuk unloads on Russian players and their 'shocking' approach
© Getty Images Sport - Phil Walter

Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk says it is "disappointing" and "shocking" that no Russian player has shown any remorse over what has been happening in her country for the past two years. 

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 21-year-old Kostyuk has been one of the most outspoken players in support of Ukraine. Also, Kostyuk was one of the players who was trying to push for the WTA to suspend Russian and Belarusian players from competing across the ATP and WTA Tours.

But the calls to suspend Russian and Belarusian players from competing were left unanswered and Kostyuk claims it is extremely painful for her to watch Russian players on site, and even more difficult to play against them. 

On Friday, world No. 37 Kostyuk reached the Australian Open round-of-16 after beating Russia's Elina Avanesyan 2-6 6-4 6-4. After beating Avanesyan, Kostyuk admitted that she thought "I’m not going to do it, I can’t win it" on the morning of her match against the Russian. 

Marta Kostyuk
Marta Kostyuk© Getty Images Sport - Mark Brake

But after a very slow start to the match against world No. 74 Avanesyan, Kostyuk was able to recover and clinch a big comeback win. After beating Avanesyan, Kostyuk pretty candidly spoke about how she feels about Russian players and their actions over the last two years. 

“You cannot be neutral in this. These ‘no war’ statements — they hurt me because they have no substance," Kostyuk 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.

“What is very disappointing is that no Russian player came to see me. None have told me they’re sorry for what their country is doing to mine.

“One player messaged me, another chatted with me, but I didn’t hear any apologies, I didn’t hear anyone telling me they didn’t support what was going on. To me, that’s shocking.

“You don’t have to be involved in politics to behave like a human being. Everyone knows what’s going on. It hurts me. It hurts me every time I arrive at the stadium and see all these Russian players.”

Kostyuk slams players for participating in a Russian exhibition

In late November, it was revealed that an exhibition event in St. Petersburg would be taking place in early December. When the player field was released, it mainly featured Russian players. 

But there were also some well-known tennis names that weren't coming from Russia - Roberto Bautista Agut, Adrian Mannarino, and Jasmine Paolini. While Bautista Agut and Mannarino went to St. Petersburg, Paolini didn't compete in the tournament after deciding to withdraw. 

"Russia is very well-known for very well psychological pressure and propaganda. It's really their specialty. You know, they're not bad at it. They're actually really, really good," Kostyuk said.

Marta Kostyuk
Marta Kostyuk© Getty Images Sport - Phil Walter

Several Ukrainian past and present players weren't happy at all after seeing non-Russian players agreeing to play in the St. Petersburg exhibition. Mannarino defended himself by claiming that he was "not into politics" but just went to St. Petersburg to do his job, which is "to play tennis." Meanwhile, Bautista Agut said he decided to play in the Russian exhibition event because he thought it would help him prepare better for the 2024 season. 

Reflecting on their decision, Kostyuk says she "truly doesn't understand these players" and called them out for prioritizing money over morals. 

"I think people get manipulated and get caught. Like, it's never just tennis. Go to Russia and play this tournament where they pay you a lot of money. I'm pretty sure they just got paid a lot of money, so that's why they went there. At the end of the day not everything is just about," Kostyuk said.

"I just have different beliefs, and I truly don't understand these players. I don't know why they did it. Yeah, congrats to Russia's propaganda. It works. Not always, but it works, unfortunately."

Kostyuk also calls out journalists

In late February, it will be exactly two years since Russia invaded Ukraine. In the early days of the Russian invasion, there was a big focus on the situation in Ukraine and there were even fundraiser tennis events for Ukraine. 

When told that just a year ago there was a fundraiser event for Ukraine in Melbourne and that now barely anyone is speaking about Ukraine, Kostyuk called out journalists because she feels that even when they were talking about Ukraine, they were doing it for the drama and clicks.

"So they want the drama. They wanted news. They wanted all this heating between players and everything," Kostyuk said.

Marta Kostyuk
Marta Kostyuk© Getty Images Sport - Christopher Pike

Meanwhile, Kostyuk is set to battle another Russian player, Maria Timofeeva. When Kostyuk and 20-year-old Timofeeva meet, it will be their first meeting. If Kostyuk beats Timofeeva, she will reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian Open.

Marta Kostyuk