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Marta Kostyuk dedicates first title to those ‘fighting and dying’ in Ukraine

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia – January 20, 2023 Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in action during her third round match against Jessica Pegula of the U.S. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk dedicated her first WTA singles title to those “fighting and dying” in her home country amid Russia’s ongoing invasion after she defeated Russian Varvara Gracheva 6-3 7-5 to win the inaugural Austin Open on Sunday.

The 20-year-old collapsed on the court and covered her face with her hands after securing the title but declined to shake the hand of her Russian opponent at the net.

“Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say ‘Slava Ukraini,’” Kostyuk said during the trophy ceremony. The Ukrainian phrase translates to “Glory to Ukraine.”

“Being in the position that I’m in right now it’s extremely special to win this title. I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and all of the people who are fighting and dying right now.”

Western military officials estimate casualties on both sides at more than 100,000 killed or wounded since Russia’s assault began just over a year ago. Tens of thousands of civilians are also feared to have died, while millions have fled the threat of fighting.

On Sunday, a woman and two children were killed in Russian mortar shelling of a village in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office said.

Moscow calls the conflict a “special military operation” to protect its security and denies targeting civilians.

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