Marta Kostyuk: Tennis star asks “Why do I live?” as Ukrainians grapple with the toll of the Russian invasion

Sometimes, 19-year-old Kyiv-born Kostyuk reflects on the impact of the Russian invasion on her country and her Ukrainian teammates.

“Right now it’s something indescribable, I would say, because there is a relative of a tennis player who passed away,” Kostyuk told CNN Sport. “There’s a tennis player’s house that’s completely destroyed,” she said.

Kostyuk’s mental health was also affected.

“It was extremely difficult, the first week or two,” she told CNN in a phone interview earlier this month.

“It’s been two months and you know, it’s ups and downs, it’s changing. I try to guide myself a bit, I just try to see where I am. I try to feel myself and I ‘try to understand me,’ she added.

Kostyuk is extremely aware of the importance of trying to manage her feelings and says she works with a psychologist.

“I started a few weeks ago, which helps me a lot. But you know, sometimes it goes to a certain extent that it’s scary, the thoughts that come to you,” Kostyuk added.

“I don’t want to say the words because you know, you can understand what I’m trying to talk about.

“Because at that point there’s so much going on, you have to carry so many things at once that you’re like, I can’t handle this anymore.

“I’m just like, what’s the point? It never ends like what do I do with my life now? What am I living for?” she says.

“I shouldn’t be silent”

What helped Kostyuk and gave his focus was trying to educate people about the war in Ukraine.

“Everyone does this differently, but the only goal I have is to not feel like I’m a victim in this situation,” she said.

“Because I’m not and I don’t position myself like that. For the first two weeks [of the invasion]I had this feeling of being a victim, like, I don’t know what to do because I rarely feel like that in my life.

“And that was the turning point for me when I changed that mindset of not being a victim,” she said.

“I shouldn’t be silent. I shouldn’t say what I think. I shouldn’t shout out loud, like, please help us. We specifically say what we need help for. ‘aid.

“I’m still a tennis player and I still want to compete. I don’t want to get injured. I don’t want to get to certain points where I’m just like, ‘You know what? I’m done.’ I can’t play tennis at this stage… I can’t do anything.”

Kostyuk is one of many Ukrainian players who have called on Russian and Belarusian athletes to speak out against the Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine if they want to compete in international competitions.

“A huge responsibility”

Earlier this month, Wimbledon organizers announced that Russian and Belarusian players would not be allowed to participate in this year’s edition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic has criticized the decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from competing at Wimbledon this year, calling the decision “crazy”.

Meanwhile, Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev said the ban was “illogical” and amounted to “total discrimination”.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, said: “It’s not discrimination in the form that’s said, it’s discrimination. considered opinion reached as what is the right and responsible decision in all circumstances.”

In a Twitter post earlier in April, Kostyuk said, “As athletes, we live a life in the public eye and therefore have a huge responsibility… In times of crisis, silence means being okay. with what’s going on.”

Besides Kostyuk, Ukrainian players Elina Svitolina and Sergiy Stakhovsky are among those calling on the WTA, ITF and ATP to ask players of these two nationalities to condemn the invasion.

“Inside the tour, we are alone”

Kostyuk told CNN that critics of his stance argued that “tennis players…have nothing to do with politics.”

“I don’t understand, what’s the point of dividing these two things? It’s one big system we’re shooting in. One can’t live without the other, and vice versa,” he said. she stated.

“So for me [the idea that] ‘sport is out of politics.’ Honestly, for so many years it’s been proven completely wrong,” she said.

“We try to talk about the fact that none of the players came to talk to us to try to help in some way,” she said.

“We were friends with a lot of players. I’m not friends with anyone anymore, like a single player,” she said.

“We know the whole world is trying to support us [Ukraine]. Everyone knows what is happening is wrong. And yet, inside the tour, we are alone,” she said.

Kostyuk plays a shot during a match against Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka on day two of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Tournament on February 15, 2022.

In response to Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from this year’s tournament, the WTA has distanced itself from the AELTC’s decision.

“The WTA strongly condemns the actions that have been taken by Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

“We are continuing our humanitarian aid efforts to support Ukraine through Tennis Plays for Peace,” the organization said in a statement, adding that they were “very disappointed” with the AELTC’s decision and of the Lawn Tennis Association who also announced that they would ban Belarusian and Russian athletes from participating in their events.

“A fundamental principle of the WTA is that individual athletes can participate in professional tennis events on the basis of merit and without any form of discrimination,” they added.

The ATP took a similar stance, saying the decision was “unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”

“Discrimination based on nationality is also a breach of our agreement with Wimbledon which states that player entry is based solely on ATP rankings,” they added.

“It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to participate in ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has been shared by professional tennis until now.”

“Everyone has a choice”

However, Kostyuk said she believes Russian and Belarus players have a responsibility to take a stand on the invasion if they don’t support it.

“Russian tennis players, some of them don’t actually live in Russia. [They] have every right to take their family and move out and say what they really think is the right thing to do, if they feel they should object.

“Yet they don’t. They’ve had enough time to do it, let’s be honest,” she added.

“Everyone has a choice to make. There are a bunch of tennis players who have resources to move their families out of the country. And yet they don’t. Why, I don’t know.

“I wouldn’t want to live in a country that doesn’t allow me to express myself; that doesn’t allow me to live my life; that ​(wants) to put my family at risk because of my actions. ​

“That’s why we’re trying to force them to speak up anyway, like even if you support this invasion, talk about it; just say your opinion publicly. But they know if they do, they’ll be out of a job. , ” she says.

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