Marta Kostyuk, a Ukrainian tennis player, won her maiden main tour title at the ATX Open in Austin, Texas on Sunday, defeating her Russian opponent Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5.
However, in defiance of custom, Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Gracheva at the net after securing the victory.
She made an emotional speech following her win, paying tribute to those fighting and dying in her home country amid the ongoing Russian invasion.
During the trophy ceremony, Kostyuk dedicated her win to Ukraine and all the people fighting and dying in the country, describing the atmosphere of the event as “one of the nicest” she had attended, adding that it had felt like a “home tournament”.
She regularly posts updates on the war in her homeland and has been defiant in her criticism of Russian and Belarusian opponents since Putin’s troops were sent into Ukraine last year.
Kostyuk first made her protest at the US Open in 2022 when she refused to shake hands with former world number one Viktoria Azarenka, who is from Belarus.
Instead of shaking hands at the net, Kostyuk opted for a quick racquet tap, as she felt it was inappropriate to shake hands given Azarenka’s failure to condemn the war.
The athlete has been vocal about the atrocities which have taken place in her country since Vladimir Putin sent his forces in last year and uses social media to highlight the impact of Russian attacks.
Over the weekend, Kostyuk shared aerial footage which shows the ruins left of Maryinka, a city in Donetsk, where the front line runs through the little that is left of the town.
Kostyuk also retweeted pictures from the aftermath of a Russian airstrike on a residential area in Zaporizhzhia, in southern Ukraine.
Today has been declared a day of mourning after a rocket hit a high-rise residential building on Thursday, the city council’s secretary Anatoliy Kurtiev said.
The death toll has risen to 13, according to Kurtiev, and rescuers continued to search for survivors in the rubble yesterday.
Elsewhere in the embattled country, Russian forces continue in their efforts to encircle the strategically important eastern town of Bakhmut.
The town in the Donbass region has been ‘nearly destroyed’ like the besieged port city of Mariupol as Russian forces surround it on three sides amid fierce street battles.