Ukraine-born Belgian player Maryna Zanevska brought the curtain down on her tennis career by snubbing a post-match handshake after losing to Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka at the US Open on Tuesday.
Zanevska, who said before the tournament she would retire after her campaign in New York due to injury, bowed out after losing 6-3, 6-2 to second seed Sabalenka.
Afterwards the Odessa-born 30-year-old declined to shake Sabalenka’s hand in a gesture of solidarity with the country of her birth.
Several Ukrainian players have snubbed post-game handshakes with opponents from Russia or Belarus since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Belarus is a key military ally of Russia.
Zanevska said she had opted not to shake Sabalenka’s hand after accusing the Australian Open champion of not “stepping up” since the conflict began.
“I know I’m representing Belgium but all my family are in Ukraine,” Zanevska told AFP.
“I respect Aryna as a tennis player. She’s a great champion, hard worker, and I mean what she’s doing in tennis is amazing.
“But it’s my personal decision about not shaking the hand to someone who couldn’t step up. I don’t judge her. She’s protecting her family, but I’m protecting my family.
“I have family fighting on the frontline. And I think if I shake her hand it would be the same as spitting in the face of them.”
Zanevska’s snub was greeted with scattered booing as she left the court.
“It was not the best way of leaving the court because people were booing but I was ready for that,” she said.
“But I’m leaving the tennis world with my head up and something I believe I did right.”
Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, will face Britain’s Jodie Burrage in the second round.