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3 May, 2022 10:42

Ukrainian player accuses Russians of ‘acting like victims’ over Wimbledon ban

Marta Kostyuk and Sergiy Stakhovsky shared their views on the Wimbledon ban and the military conflict
Ukrainian player accuses Russians of ‘acting like victims’ over Wimbledon ban

Two Ukrainian tennis stars have blasted their Russian counterparts and challenged the views of one of the sport's greatest ever players in Rafael Nadal regarding the Wimbledon ban on Russian athletes.

Speaking to Eurosport recently, Ukrainian women's world number 49 Marta Kostyuk claimed fellow professionals from Russia and Belarusian haven't done their best to speak out against the military operation in her homeland which has forced her to "cut out all the contacts" of those she had made friends with.

The 19-year-old said she did this "because of the fact that we were friends and they never considered coming out to me and talking to me."

"I think that’s a pretty good reason. No matter what their feelings are, I really don’t care," Kostyuk explained. 

"They pretend like nothing is going on, they pretend that they are the victims of this situation, which I honestly cannot get," she complained.

"I don’t know how much time needs to pass before they stop making excuses for themselves to do whatever, to do anything, any decision, any movement."

Managing to flee Ukraine herself after the conflict began in February, Kostyuk claimed that Russian players "who are at least in the top 50 have all the money to move their families" out of Russia too.

"Come on, it’s been two months, they have all the possibilities to move their family somewhere, it’s just the sacrifice that people choose not to make; it’s not like you have no choice. Everyone has a choice in life," said Kostyuk, who claims to personally know people that have fled Russia.

Unsurprisingly, Kostyuk supports the ban on Russian players at Wimbledon this summer which comes despite them being able to play on the women's and men's tours under neutral status.

Kostyuk remarked that there is a "list of countries that on the government level signed or voted" in opposition to the military operation. 

"So based on that, which is not political, the decision was made, so let’s be clear about this," she demanded.

Furthermore, the youngster stressed that whereas most figures on the circuit have stayed quiet, speaking out has had a positive effect on her.

"I think that’s the thing I should do, I have to do, and it’s my position since the first day," Kostyuk said.

"Because I decided that the tennis court is where I’m going to do my fight – because I could go back to Ukraine and volunteer but I honestly, still to this point, don’t know if it would make me feel better than playing, but I chose this and I will never know the other part."

While they have been clear to stress they don't support the military operation itself, many big names in tennis such as world number one Novak Djokovic have been critical of the Wimbledon ban on Russian players which they feel is discriminatory.

Last weekend, men's Grand Slam record holder Rafael Nadal joined them as he prepared to make his comeback at the Madrid Open. 

"I think it's very unfair to my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues, in that sense it's not their fault what's happening in this moment" the Spaniard, who beat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final at the start of 2022, stated to reporters.

"Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision. There's one thing that's negative, there are things that are clear. When the government imposes some restrictions, you just have to follow them," Nadal lamented.

However, retired ex-world number 31 Sergiy Stakhovsky took to Twitter to share an article with Nadal's comments and tagged the 35-year-old.

"Rafael Nadal, we competed together," Stakhovsky began.

"We’ve played each other on tour. Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home? How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?" he asked.