PARIS – First Aryna Sabalenka thought the boos and mocking whistles that came from him the French Open After a first-round win on Sunday, the crowd turned to her. Instead, the negative reaction was directed at her opponent, Marta Kostyukfor not participating in the customary post-game handshake at the net.
Kostyuk, Who is from Ukraine?, avoided all eye contact with Sabalenka, who hails from Belarus, after the game and instead went straight over to greet the referee. Sabalenka walked towards the net as if expecting an exchange of blows.
But that’s something Kostyuk did it whenever she faced an opponent from Russia or Belarus since Russia invaded her country with the help of Belarus in February 2022.
Perhaps the fans at Court Philippe Chatrier didn’t know the backstory and assumed that Kostyuk simply hadn’t followed tennis etiquette when congratulating the winner after the one-sided result: Sabalenka suddenly won six games in a row and sat down 6-3 through , 6-2.
“It was a very tough game – I would say emotionally tough,” said number 2 seeded Sabalenka, who won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.
During an interview on the main stadium square, Sabalenka told viewers she was sure their taunts “were aimed at me, so I was a little surprised, but then I felt your support.”
Before play began on day one of the clay court tournament, the players did not pose together for the set photos at the top of the net after the coin toss to determine who would serve first.
Kostyuk, a 20-year-old ranked at No. 39, won her first WTA title by defeating a Russian opponent in Austin, Texas in March, and no player was netted that day.
During her pre-tournament press conference on Friday, Sabalenka was asked if it was likely that there would be no handshake on Sunday.
“If she hates me, fine. I can’t do anything about that. There will be people who love me; there will be people who hate me,” Sabalenka said at the time. “If she hates me, I don’t feel the same way about her.”