Emma Raducanu’s Ukrainian opponent ends friendship with Russian players – ‘I don’t get it’

Emma Raducanu announces shock split from coach after just five months

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Tennis star Marta Kostyuk has hit out at her Russian and Belarusian peers who have refused to speak out on the conflict in her native Ukraine. The teenager is due to face Emma Raducanu in the last 32 of the Madrid Open today (Sunday afternoon). 

Kostyuk was born in the same year as Raducanu and looks to have a bright future ahead of her as she rises through the ranks. In 2018, she became the youngest player to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in over two decades as she went on an unlikely run at the Australian Open. 

The 19-year-old is going well in Madrid, having beaten Danish opponent Clara Tauson in straight sets to set up a clash with Raducanu. And Kostyuk is using her progress as a platform to discuss the widely-condemned conflict in Ukraine, which has prompted millions to flee the country and seek refuge. 

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“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,” she told Eurosport.

“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.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

Raducanu, meanwhile, comes into Sunday’s clash off the back of a straight-sets victory over Tereza Martincova. She survived an almighty scare too, coming back from 2-5 down in the first set to win 7-6 6-0. 

The British sensation is undoubtedly hoping for another deep tournament run following a strong performance in Stuttgart last time out. She recently split with coach Torben Beltz as she gears up for her first ever French Open later this month. 

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