Iga Swiatek suggested there was a lack of leadership at the top of tennis on how to deal with the Russian invasion of Ukraine after Victoria Azarenka was shunned by Marta Kostyuk at Thursday’s US Open.
Ukrainian Kostyuk decided not to shake hands with Azarenka after his second-round defeat at Flushing Meadows, simply hitting the rackets.
This came after Kostyuk criticized the Belarusian for attending a charity match for Ukraine, before the United States Tennis Association announced she would no longer be involved.
Belarus maintains close ties with Russia and has been sanctioned by Western nations for supporting Vladimir Putin after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March.
Both situations led to an icy atmosphere after the conclusion of the tie, won by Azarenka 6-2 6-3.
Asked if anything could be done to address the tensions among the tour players, world number one Swiatek, who booked her third-round spot with a 6-3 6-2 win over Sloane Stephens, said: “Well basically I think it’s already too late I mean, it’s never too late, you know, but I think the best time for ATP or WTA to do whatever was when the war started, and where the tension was enough great in the changing rooms.
“I think right now it’s pretty messed up already, and maybe next time it’ll be easier to handle if someone will guide us and someone will even organize meetings between players and show that we should be united.
“Even if there are countries that are invading other countries, we are tennis players. It’s sad but it’s not our fault that it’s happening. Yes, I think it would be much, much easier at first.
“Right now, it’s a little too late to fix it. But I think it’s only between the players and their personal relationships how you will handle it and how you will communicate with each other.
“But from my case, right now it’s easy to say that maybe there was a lack of leadership, but at the time I didn’t even know what to do. But there are people smarter than me, so they should have an idea.”
Victory over Stephens means that Swiatek won 52 games in 2022. The latest players with the most WTA-level wins in a single campaign were Ash Barty (57) and Kiki Bertens (55) in 2019.
Serena Williams is dominating the headlines, however, in what will likely be her last tournament before retirement, a situation Swiatek is more than happy about.
Asked if he felt like he was flying under the radar, Swiatek said: “Maybe a little bit, yes, sure. You can see the difference to Roland Garros and Wimbledon when I returned after winning Roland Garros.
“But I would say it doesn’t really matter to me. If I play well and if I do my job on the pitch, I know I’ll be fine with everything that’s going on.
“But yeah, Serena totally deserves it and it’s pretty obvious to me that she will be in the spotlight in this tournament. This is kind of her moment right now. I’m just playing and focusing on that, and this is the most important. what for me “.
Swiatek will face Lauren Davis in the next round after the American beat Ekaterina Alexandrova 0-6 6-4 7-6 (10-5).