Marta Kostyuk’s stinging rebuke of Russian and Belarusian players: ‘They pretend that they are the victims’

Marta Kostyuk talks to the media

Marta Kostyuk has once again slammed the Russian and Belarusian players on the ATP and WTA Tours for not speaking up against Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, saying “they pretend like nothing is going on”.

The 19-year-old and her family were forced to flee from the Ukraine following the invasion in February and Ukrainian tennis players have all spoken up against the atrocities in their home country.

While many players from Russia and Belarus have insisted they are “against the war”, Kostyuk feels they have not gone far enough as she hit out against her fellow professionals.

“I cut out all the contacts from all the Russian and Belarusian players I’ve been friends with 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,” she told Eurosport’s Reem Abulleil.

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

“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.”

Players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to play at ATP, WTA and ITF events, but they can only compete as neutrals with no flags or anthems allowed.

However, the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association upped the ante as they confirmed that players from those two countries will not be allowed to play at grass-court events in the UK, including Wimbledon.

Several players, including world No 1 Novak Djokovic and Andrey Rublev, have criticised the decision as they insist there is not much more they can do then condemn the invasion.

Kostyuk, though, says they can go further.

“Let’s be honest, players who are at least in the top 50 have all the money to move their families,” she said.

“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.

“I know people who fled Russia. Who left Russia because of this, because they cannot live in the country like this, they cannot live in a country where they are not allowed to speak or they’re not allowed to do things.

“If your choice is to live and keep living in the country that doesn’t give you freedom, like basic human freedom… there are so many possibilities to do something. So many excuses for so many weeks.”

As for Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, she added: “There is a list of countries that on the government level signed or voted that everything that is happening in Ukraine is genocide. So based on that, which is not political, the decision was made, so let’s be clear about this.”

While many players have preferred to keep to themselves, Kostyuk has been vocal and the teenager feels it has helped her.

“It definitely helps me when I’m winning to speak out, to let people hear me. I think that’s the thing I should do, I have to do, and it’s my position since the first day,” she 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.”

She added: “It’s been a roller-coaster. One day you’re okay, the other day you’re horrible, something happens, you took it very close to you and you react differently every time. And me, as an emotional person, it’s not so easy.

“But I try to manage. Some weeks were extremely difficult, it went to the extent of thinking, ‘What’s the purpose of even being here alive?’

“It requires a lot of mental strength and work, I’m just trying to do my best.”