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Tennis ‘doesn’t really matter’ with Ukrainians dying: Kostyuk

Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk said making the Australian Open fourth round Friday “doesn’t really matter” when her country is in “survival mode’ and missiles are flying over her family home.

The 21-year-old beat Russian Elina Avanesyan in three sets in Melbourne to equal her best Grand Slam singles showing, refusing to shake her hand afterwards.

“The war is still there. People are still dying every day. I still don’t understand what all these players are doing here. Nothing really changed in my world,” she said.

Kostyuk, whose previous best effort at a major was reaching the last 16 at the French Open in 2021, accused people of forgetting about the conflict because they had got “used to it”.

“I understand that everyone has their own issues, and everyone is focused on their thing. I’m here to remind everyone all the time that it’s still on, and it should be stopped. It’s not normal that it’s happening,” she said.

“My whole family is in Kyiv right now. My mum sends me videos when there are missiles flying over their house. I watch this. To me it’s incredible that it’s still going on, and it’s been almost two years.”

World number 37 Kostyuk has been one of the most vocal and articulate critics of the presence of Russian and Belarusian players on the tour.

In 2022 they were banned from Wimbledon in response to the invasion of Ukraine but allowed to continue competing at other tournaments as neutrals.

“I try to do my best, and I compete, and I try to succeed,” she said in a passionate press conference. 

“At the end of the day I look around, and I don’t feel like all of this really matters as much. It’s just a tennis match. It’s just a tennis tournament. Out there is the real life. People I think forget about.

“But in reality, the reality that I’m living in, is everything is very far from being over.

“We’re just in survival mode for the last two years. People are incredibly depressed now and tired. I don’t feel like it’s stopping anytime soon, and I don’t feel like anyone is doing anything about it.”

Kostyuk will meet another Russian, qualifier Maria Timofeeva, next.

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