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Indian Wells Tennis • Kostyuk beats fellow Ukrainian-born Zanevska, Korda advances to showdown with Nadal

Marta Kostyuk took Russian players to task after her winning her Indian Wells opener. EPA-EFE/RAY ACEVEDO

By Ricky Dimon

Ukrainian flags are in full display at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden–along with many other flags, of course, although Ukraine’s are front and center.

They were blowing fast and furiously on an incredibly windy day at the BNP Paribas Open on Thursday. But the wind did nothing to dampen the quality of a first-round match between Ukrainian-born players Marta Kostyuk and Maryna Zanevska.

Kostyuk (who is Ukrainian) saved two match points in the second set and came back to beat Zanevska (who now has Belgian nationality) 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5 after three hours and nine minutes.

The post-match embrace seemingly lasted almost as long!

“Maryna is a former Ukrainian player–she changed her nationality a few years ago,” Kostyuk noted. “Her parents are in Ukraine, in a quieter area. Everyone is afraid. At the end of the match, I told her that she had played incredible and that everything was going to be OK, that our parents were going to be OK.”

In her post-match press conference, Kostyuk did not hold back in regards to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and the general response to that war. She wants Russian players–if they are going to continue playing on tour–to speak out to an even greater extent against what their country is doing.

“You can’t be neutral in this situation. For me, ‘No war’ can mean several things. For example, we (Ukraine) could end the war by giving up. But that was never an option. From day one, I knew it wouldn’t happen because I had lived through the revolution and I knew that people wouldn’t want to go the other way, which was to Russia.

“I do not like it. Again, you don’t need to be involved in politics to know what’s going on, who’s invaded who, who’s bombing who…. It’s very simple.

“None have told me they are sorry for what their country is doing to mine. One player messaged me, another chatted with me, but I didn’t hear any apologies. I didn’t hear anyone telling me they didn’t support what was going on.”

As for tennis matters at hand, on the men’s side it was a strong day for the United States. Six American men advanced to the second round: Mackenzie McDonald, Jenson Brooksby, Jack Sock, J.J. Wolf, Christopher Eubanks, and Sebastian Korda. Not including one all-American match between Eubanks and Maxime Cressy, the only player from the host nation who lost was Marcos Giron.

Of course, things will get a lot more difficult in round two. Among the Saturday matchups are Korda vs. Rafael Nadal, Sock vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas, and McDonald vs. Carlos Alcaraz.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.