At times too much emotional turmoil and unfathomable pain, 19-year-old Kostyuk, who was born in Kyiv, reflects on the impact of the Russian invasion on her country and fellow Ukrainian players.
“Right now it’s an indescribable thing, I would say, because there’s a tennis player’s father who died,” Kostyuk told CNN Sport. “There is a tennis player’s house that was completely destroyed,” she said.
Kostyuk’s mental health was also affected.
“It was very difficult, the first week or two,” she told CNN in a phone interview earlier this month.
“It’s been two months and you know, it’s ups and downs, it changes. I try to orient myself a little bit, just trying to see where I am. I try to feel myself and try to discover myself,” she added.
Kostyuk is fully aware of the importance of trying to manage her feelings and says she is working with a psychologist.
Kostyuk added, “I started two weeks ago, and it helps me tremendously. But you know, sometimes it just goes so far that it’s scary, the thoughts that come to you.”
“I don’t want to say the words because you know, you can tell what I’m trying to talk about.
“Because at this point, there are so many things going on, you need to carry so much at once that you can’t deal with this anymore.
“I’m just like, What’s the point where everything is headed? It never ends like what am I doing with my life right now? What am I living for?” She said.
I don’t have to be silent
What helped and helped Kostyuk achieve her goal was trying to educate people about the war in Ukraine.
“Everyone does it differently, but the only goal I have is to not feel like a victim in this situation,” she said.
“Because I’m not like that and I don’t put myself that way. The first two weeks [of the invasion]I had this feeling of being a victim, like, I don’t know what to do because I rarely feel like this in my life.
“This was a turning point for me when I changed the mindset of not being a victim,” she said.
“I shouldn’t be silent. I shouldn’t say what I think. I shouldn’t be screaming as loud as I can, like, ‘Please help us.’ We say specifically what we need help with.
“I’m still a tennis player, and I still want to compete. I don’t want to get injured. I don’t want to go into this to certain points where I’m just, ‘You know what?’” I’m done. I can’t play tennis at this point… I can’t do anything.
Meanwhile, Russian tennis star Andrei Rublev said the ban was “illogical” and amounted to “complete discrimination”.
At a media conference on Tuesday, Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) that runs Wimbledon, said: “It’s not discrimination in what form is being said, it’s a thoughtful opinion arrived at what is the right and responsible decision in all circumstances.”
“As athletes who live a life in the public eye, we therefore have a great responsibility… in times of crisis, silence means approval of what is happening,” Kostyuk said in a tweet earlier in April.
Inside the tour, we’re alone
Kostyuk told CNN that critics of her stance have argued that “tennis players … have nothing to do with politics.”
She said, “I don’t understand, what’s the point of dividing these two things? It’s a big system that we’re going through. One can’t live without the other, and vice versa.”
“For me [the idea that] Sports outside politics. Frankly, for many years, the exact opposite has been proven. ”
“We’re trying to talk about the fact that none of the players actually came and talked to us to try to help in some way,” she said.
“We used to be friends with a lot of guys,” she said. “I’m no longer friends with anyone, like one player.”
“We know the whole world is trying to support us [Ukraine]. Everyone knows that what is going wrong. “However, inside the tour, we are alone,” she said.
In response to Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from this year’s tournament, the WTA has distanced itself from the AELTC’s decision.
“The WTA strongly condemns the actions taken by Russia and its unjustified invasion of Ukraine.
“We are continuing our humanitarian relief efforts to support Ukraine by playing tennis for peace,” the organization said in a statement, adding that it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision of the AELTC and the Tennis Federation, which also announced that it would ban Belarusian and Russian athletes from competing in their events.
They added, “One of the fundamental principles of the WTA is that individual athletes can participate in professional tennis events on the basis of merit and without any form of discrimination.”
The ATP took a similar position, saying the decision was “unfair and likely to set a harmful precedent for the game”.
They added: “Discrimination on the basis of nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon which states that a player’s entry is based solely on the ATP rankings.”
“It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete in ATP events under a neutral flag, a status that has so far been shared across professional tennis.”
“Everyone has a choice”
However, Kostyuk said she believed that the Russian and Belarusian players had a responsibility to take a stand on the invasion if they did not support it.
“Russian tennis players, some of them don’t actually live in Russia. [They] They have every right to take their family and go out and say what they really feel is the right thing to do, if they feel they have to speak up against it.
“But they don’t. They had the time to do it, let’s be honest,” she added.
“Everyone has a choice to make. There is a group of tennis players who have the resources to move their families out of the country. And yet they don’t. Why, I don’t know.
“I do not want to live in a country that does not allow me to speak; that does not allow me to live my life; that (wants) my family in danger because of my actions.
“That’s why we try to force them to speak out in any way, like even if you support this invasion, talk about it; just say your opinion publicly. But they know that if they do, they will be out of work,” she said.