It’s a clash that everyone would probably have preferred to avoid, but the fate was thus made that the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka found herself against the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk on Thursday, in the second round of the US Open. At the end of last week, the latter was vehement when she learned that Azarenka was on the program for an exhibition evening, the profits of which were going to be entrusted to a support fund for Ukraine.
The American Federation ended up “cancelling” Azarenka, who then split on Twitter with a saddened comment: “Never take the impact of a kind gesture for granted. » The episode is obviously very little compared to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, but remained a form of questioning about the atmosphere that was going to escort this first duel between the two players, called to meet at eleven o’clock. in the morning, in front of the still very sparse bleachers of the spacious court 17.
A few discreet Ukrainian flags in the stands, a yellow and blue ribbon on Kostyuk’s visor, an equal and polite applause meter. No direct exchange between the two players during the short introductory speech by the referee, the Frenchman Kader Nouni, in the middle of the court. A quick close, made compulsory for the pre-match photo, around the child who had just drawn lots, but no contact, neither visual nor physical, between the two players, who then left each on their side for warming up.
RAS then during a match dominated by the more experienced of the two (Azarenka, 33, is 26th WTA; Kostyuk, 20, 65th) and during which the younger has done a bit of everything, points and faults. In the end, no handshake, since Kostyuk only offered a racket “check” to her opponent (not for health reasons, since she then shook hands with the referee), and a dry score (6-2, 6-3). Episode closed. In the third round on Saturday, Azarenka will face either Spain’s Paula Badosa or Croatia’s Petra Martic.