Marta Kostyuk dedicates maiden title to people fighting & dying in home country Ukraine

By Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas: Marta Kostyuk won her first career WTA title at age 20 by beating Varvara Gracheva 6-3, 7-5 in the ATX Open final on Sunday, then dedicated the victory to her home country of Ukraine.

The eighth-seeded Kostyuk and the unseeded Gracheva, a 22-year-old Russian, did not meet at the net for the traditional post-match handshake; Kostyuk has said she will not do so after facing any opponents from Russia, which began its invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, or Belarus, which helped launch the attack.

“Being in the position that I am in right now, it’s extremely special to win this title,” Kostyuk said during the trophy ceremony at the inaugural edition of the hard-court tournament in the Texas capital, “and I want to dedicate this title to Ukraine and to all the people that are fighting and dying right now.”

When Gracheva sailed a forehand long to end the match after 1 1/2 hours on Sunday, Kostyuk — who trailed 5-3 in the second set and saved a set point at 5-4 — dropped to her knees at the baseline, put her hands on her face and sobbed.

“Obviously,” said Kostyuk, who was the junior champion at the 2017 Australian Open, “it’s a very special moment.”

Both players were participating in a tour-level title match for the first time, and they combined for 13 breaks of serve — eight by Kostyuk — and 14 double-faults. Both won fewer than 50% of points on serve.

There were only two aces, both by Gracheva, including one that gave her a set point at 5-4, 40-30. But she wasted that chance to force a third set by pushing a forehand wide. The 88th-ranked Gracheva, who eliminated No. 1 seed Magda Linette and 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens earlier in the tournament, put another forehand into the net to face a break point. Kostyuk converted it by ending a 16-shot exchange with a forehand volley winner.

Kostyuk, who came into the day ranked 52nd, then held to 6-5 with the help of an underhand serve, before capping a four-game, match-closing run with yet another break.

She is the third first-time champion on the women’s tour in 2023.

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