Ukrainian teenager Marta Kostyuk has insisted that “sports have always been political” and that those claiming otherwise are simply using the statement as “an excuse” to avoid speaking out against Russia’s invasion of her home country.
The 19-year-old Kostyuk, who faces Emma Raducanu in the Madrid Open second round on Sunday, says she’s been living through a “roller coaster” ever since war erupted back home and has called out her Russian and Belarusian peers for not publicly opposing the war.
“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,” Kostyuk told Eurosport on Friday at the Caja Magica.
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“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.”
Kostyuk rejects the notion that Russian and Belarusian players are worried about their families back home and have no choice but to stay silent.
“Let’s be honest, players who are at least in the top 50 have all the money to move their families,” said the world No. 60.
“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.”
Kostyuk explained that she had to relocate her family from Ukraine at her own expense, noting the sacrifices she, and many of her compatriots, have had to make.
“I still have to do my job to take care of my family. Why are they not doing it? I don’t know honestly. Just to find this excuse that ‘I have family there and it’s dangerous’, honestly I’m over it, come on let’s move on from this and find something else. Not one public person was put in prison [in Russia for opposing the war],” she added.

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Kostyuk described Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at the Championships this summer as “really political, but it was based on a non-political thing that is happening”.
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.”
On a personal level, Kostyuk admits she has had very dark days over the past two months but is keen to compete and win tennis matches to amplify her voice for the sake of her country.
“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.”

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Kostyuk has been talking regularly to a psychologist to help her navigate everything she is feeling and experiencing.
“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,” she said.
“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.”
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