PARIS: Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka powered into the second round of the French Open with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in a feisty clash to start the year’s second Grand Slam today, but was left perplexed by jeering from some parts of the crowd.
Some booing and jeering could be heard after the match as Kostyuk refused to shake hands with her opponent, having said beforehand that she would not do so with Russian and Belarusian players due to Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour.
Sabalenka, who appeared to sarcastically bow to the crowd following the win, said she initially thought the boos were aimed at her.
“It was a very tough match, I mean tough emotionally. I’m sorry guys, I didn’t get it at first, I thought this booing was against me so I was a little surprised,” she said.
“But then I felt your support, so thank you so much.”
The world No 2 has previously said she has nothing against Ukrainian people and felt bad for them as Moscow’s invasion rages on. Belarus has been a staging ground for Russia’s actions.
Sabalenka appeared in a spot of bother on her serve early on and fell behind 2-3, but the unseeded Kostyuk could not build on her advantage and the Australian Open champion struck back immediately with a powerful crosscourt volley on breakpoint.
Second seed Sabalenka wrapped up the first set in style in front of a sparse Court Philippe Chatrier crowd before pouncing in the next with an early break and another to go up 4-1, as Kostyuk wilted under the Paris sun.
The Belarusian raised her level again late in the match to save two breakpoints and close out the victory in 71 minutes.