Very early Sunday morning, at Eastern time, Aryna Sabalenka (2) faced Marta Kostyuk. Normally, this first round duel between one of the favorites and a young 20-year-old player excluded from the top 30 would not have attracted so much attention.
However, the socio-political context imposed itself. At the end of the match, won in two sets of 6-3 and 6-2 by the favorite, Kostyuk, a Ukrainian, refused to shake hands with Sabalenka, a Belarusian. Perplexed, Sabalenka greeted the crowd not knowing what to do. Meanwhile, Kostyuk walked out to boos from the crowd.
Nearly 500 days after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the events and consequences of these condemnable acts are still relevant in the world of sport.
Russian and Belarusian athletes, for the most part, remained silent in the face of the situation. Apart from Andrey Rulev, who very early condemned the actions taken by his country.
Thus, at the end of the meeting, Sabalenka returned to Kotsyuk’s decision to ignore the traditional handshake. In fact, she was instead asked to give her opinion on the war.
“Do you support or condemn the war in Ukraine? asked a journalist directly at a press conference.
“No one on this planet, whether Russian or Belarusian athletes, supports war. Person ! How could we endure the war? Normal people are never going to put up with it,” she replied, calmly.
This is the first time that Sabalenka, potential world number one depending on the turn of the tournament, has spoken on the subject.
Leylah Annie Fernandez, meanwhile, crossed swords with Magda Linette as a curtain raiser, a year after reaching the quarter-finals at the same tournament.
The 20-year-old may represent Canada’s best chance at this competition, even if she very sporadically meets the standards set at the 2021 US Open.
Clay molds very well to her game and she maintains a very respectable record at Roland-Garros.
Fernandez, however, looked somewhat shaky early in the game. In her first service game, she picked up the ball again and again, and not just because she had the sun in her face. Too low, too behind or completely off his service line, his ball toss was inconsistent from start to finish. The number of retakes at the end of this meeting of more than two hours can certainly be counted in the dozens.
It is therefore difficult to maintain a good performance in the service when the beginning of the movement leaves something to be desired. The left-hander committed nine double faults during the game and passed only 56% of her first serves.
The 49th player in the world was skilled, however, in covering up her mistakes. Fernandez shone especially in tied games.
If his lack of confidence on certain balls must have raised eyebrows with his coaches, no one can question his combativeness.
She did not hesitate to attempt all kinds of attacks. It is in these bursts of creativity and audacity that Fernandez is at his best. She was the underdog in this duel against the 21st racket in the world. Linette delivered fine opposition, but her serving largesse in the third set opened the door for her rival.
Fernandez smashed the Pole to make it 5-3 with a huge crossover forehand as an exclamation point to secure a second-round pass.
Félix Auger-Aliassime doesn’t play until Monday, but he still caught the eye.
On Sunday morning, the 22-year-old officially launched his new logo.
This one simply features his initials, “FAA,” glued together, in white, all-caps letters.
“Felix is proud and excited to unveil its new logo. He hopes he will inspire and carry his values,” his agency wrote in a statement.
More and more athletes of his caliber, especially in tennis, are moving forward with a personalized brand and logo.