WATCH: Marta Kostyuk booed for not shaking Aryna Sabalenka’s hand in French Open defeat

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates

Marta Kostyuk was booed off court for refusing to shake hands with Aryna Sabalenka after her opening round defeat at the 2023 French Open.

There was particular interest in the first match of the tournament on Philippe Chatrier between Ukrainian Kostyuk and Belarusian Sabalenka.

Kostyuk has been the most outspoken critic of allowing Russian and Belarusian players to continue competing in tennis. She also criticised athletes from those countries for not speaking out against their nations amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

World No 2 Sabalenka knew Kostyuk would not shake her hand at the end of the match. The 25-year-old said in her pre-tournament press conference: “If she hates me, OK. I can’t do anything about that.”

The pair kept well apart ahead of the contest, not posing together for the usual pre-match picture, and at the end of the 6-3, 6-2 victory for the second seed, Kostyuk walked to shake hands with the umpire before heading to her seat.

A section of the crowd began booing, surprising Sabalenka, who appeared unsure whether the gesture was directed at her, but the fans then cheered for her before jeering Kostyuk as she walked off.

In her on-court interview, Sabalenka addressed the booing and expressed her appreciation to the crowd.

“It was a very tough match, tough emotionally. I didn’t know if the booing was against me but thank you so much for your support, it’s really important,” Sabalenka said.

In a post-match interview with Eurosport, Sabalenka added: “I was just trying to focus on myself, I didn’t try to overhit it. I was just trying to go for my shots without thinking about the speed. I’m super happy I was able to get through this one.”

The Australian Open champion is one of three big favourites for the women’s title along with defending champion Iga Swiatek and Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina.

She looked tight to start with and two double faults contributed to a loss of serve as Kostyuk took a 3-2 advantage in the first set.

But Sabalenka got back on level terms immediately and from there relaxed into the match, losing just two of the last 12 games.

The Belarusian will face compatriot Iryna Shymanovich, a 25-year-old qualifier, in the second round at Roland Garros. World No 211 Shymanovich defeated 95th-ranked Panna Udvardy in three sets in the first round.

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