Aidan Berg

Ukraine’s Kostyuk booed after not shaking hands with Belarus’ Sabalenka at French Open

Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports
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PARIS – At first, Aryna Sabalenka thought the boos and derisive whistles coming from the French Open crowd were directed at her after a first-round victory. Instead, the negative reaction was aimed at her opponent, Marta Kostyuk, for not participating in the usual post-match handshake up at the net.

Kostyuk, who is from Ukraine, avoided so much as any eye contact with Sabalenka, who is from Belarus, after the match, instead walking directly over to acknowledge the chair umpire. Sabalenka walked toward the net as if expecting some sort of exchange.

But this is something Kostyuk has been doing whenever she has faced any opponent from Russia or Belarus since her country was invaded by Russia, with help from Belarus, in February 2022.

Perhaps the fans on hand at Court Philippe Chatrier did not know the backstory and figured Kostyuk simply failed to follow tennis etiquette by congratulating the winner after the lopsided result: Sabalenka grabbed six games in a row during one stretch and came out on top 6-3, 6-2.

“It was a very tough match – I would say tough emotionally,” said the No. 2-seeded Sabalenka, who won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January.

During an on-court interview in the main stadium, Sabalenka told the spectators she was sure their jeering “was against me, so I was a little surprised, but then I felt your support.”

Before play began on Day 1 of the clay-court tournament, the players did not pose together for the standard photos up at the net after the coin toss to determine who would serve first.

Kostyuk, a 20-year-old who is ranked 39th, won her first WTA title in March at Austin, Texas, by beating a Russian opponent and neither player went to the net afterward that day.

During her pre-tournament news conference on Friday, Sabalenka was asked about the likelihood there would be no handshake on Sunday.

“If she hates me, OK. I can’t do anything about that. There is going to be people who loves me; there is going to be people who hates me,” Sabalenka said then. “If she hates me, I don’t feel anything like that (toward) her.”

Iga Swiatek says thigh injury ‘shouldn’t be anything serious’ ahead of French Open

Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun/USA TODAY NETWORK

ROME — The right thigh injury that forced top-ranked Iga Swiatek to retire during her Italian Open quarterfinal “shouldn’t be anything serious,” the Polish player said.

Swiatek had to stop playing during the third set against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.

“I felt pain in my right thigh. It was pretty sudden. At the beginning I didn’t really know if it was serious or not,” Swiatek said. “We did an examination with the physio afterwards. It shouldn’t be anything serious, so I’m pretty positive that I’ll be back soon.”

Swiatek will be aiming for a third French Open title – and second straight – when the clay-court Grand Slam begins in 10 days.

“To be ready for Roland Garros I need to recover right now. I’m going to take couple of days off. … Since Stuttgart I wasn’t really able to recover with that tight schedule that we have on WTA,” Swiatek said, referring to a tournament in Germany last month.

Swiatek won the French Open in 2020 and 2022. She was also a two-time defending champion in Rome and was on a 14-match winning streak at the Foro Italico.

It was 2-2 in the third when Swiatek stopped after more than two hours of play. She won the first set 6-2 before Rybakina took the second set 7-6 (3).

During the second-set tiebreaker, Swiatek grasped her right knee after shifting directions a few times behind the baseline. Close to tears, she took a medical timeout after the set and left the court. When she returned, her upper right thigh was bandaged. Then after four more games, she retired.

Tunisia’s Jabeur wins WTA Charleston rematch over Bencic

Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun/USA TODAY NETWORK
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CHARLESTON, S.C. – Ons Jabeur used quick thinking, a bit of creativity and some luck to turn the tide on the way to her Charleston Open championship.

Jabeur, ranked fifth in the world, saw opponent Belinda Bencic’s shot from the net coming straight at her. So Jabeur jumped with legs apart, put the racket behind her between the opening and sent the ball back at Bencic.

Bencic put her next shot to Jabeur’s left and she responded with a winning backhand at the right sideline to tie the opening set at 5-all on the way to a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory.

“I reacted very fast,” Jabeur said. “I saw the ball coming at me. So I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to give her one more ball to play and see.’”

Jabeur pumped her fist as the crowd cheered and she kept the momentum the rest of the way for her third career WTA title.

Jabeur understood the importance of that moment with Bencic a game away from taking the opening set.

“I think I was lucky and creative with that shot, which was amazing and it changed up the game a bit,” she said.

There were plenty of other critical moments for Jabeur, winning four straight points in the first-set tiebreaker when Bencic was a point away from taking charge.

Bencic was amazed with Jabeur’s shot, too.

“To play that on a break point is just, I mean, well done,” Bencic said. “Like what can I do?”

Bencic, the defending champion who defeated Jabeur in three sets to win here a year ago, joked that if the two meet in a grand slam final down the road and Jabeur does it again, “I will kill her.”

Jabeur broke Bencic’s serve three times in the final set. When Bencic hit her service return wide, Jabeur raised her arms in triumph for her first victory in the United States.

“I wish every tournament is like this, really (mean that) from the heart,” Jabeur said in accepting the trophy. “Really amazing tournament and I hope I can come back.”

When she does, it’ll be as defending champion.

Bencic advanced to the second straight final about 30 minutes before it began, finishing off a straight-set victory over No. 1 seed Jessica Pegula by winning the final five points of a tiebreaker.

Jabeur looked like the one who might’ve needed more rest early on. She lost her serve in the opening game of the finals and struggled to figure out Bencic’s serves.

Bencic held two set points in the tiebreaker that Jabeur fought off. Bencic watched a Jabeur’s ball hit the line and threw her racket. Jabeur’s hit another sideline on set point that Bencic thought was out, but the chair umpire ruled in it as Bencic pleaded her case to no avail.

“I wish at 6-4 in the tiebreak one of her balls would just go a little bit wide or a little bit long, but sometimes this is tennis,” Bencic said. “I felt today was meant to be her way.”

Jabeur took a 4-1 lead in the second set and held on for her first title since winning on grass in Berlin last June, also defeating Bencic.

The defeat ended Bencic’s 10-match win streak on Charleston’s green clay.