Issue #4 | Marta Kostyuk Still Bringing Up Old Sh*t

Issue #4 | Marta Kostyuk Still Bringing Up Old Sh*t

Photo Credit: Jimmie 48

Imagine being Emma Raducanu. Just cruising in a beautiful Porsche 911 Carrera GTS Cabriolet on a rare pristine day along the London countryside, desperately eager to put the top down and let the 473 horses under the hood roam free. But she can’t, because 28 whole ass months after marauding through the U.S. Open singles draw, she stays at risk of catching a stray (figuratively of course) any time someone places a hot mic in front of Marta Kostyuk. 

Kostyuk who still seems hell bent on diminishing Raducanu’s epic run at the 2021 U.S. Open, produced a tired “stuck in a pair of old jeans and put through a Maytag spin cycle” receipt, throwing mild shade at Raducanu when asked about how a particular draw plays in the complexity of a player’s chances.

“I have an easiest example of when Leylah and Emma were playing the final, what draw Leylah had and what draw Emma had. Emma, no offense, but Leylah was really fighting for her life every single match.” 

Indeed it was offensive. And facts, Leylah Fernandez was fighting for her life, no question about it, she too was amazing. She had to find her opportunities, grinding down and frustrating the likes of Naomi Osaka, Elina Svitolina, Angelique Kerber, and Aryna Sabalenka, earning her place in an all-teenage showdown with Raducanu in the final.

Before I really get to rambling, let me say this, I actually like Kostyuk and think she has the tools and experience to do big things. I had her picked to make some noise in 2023 (she did capture her first tour title in Austin), and it was good to see her start the year strong in the season’s first major event. However, Kostyuk and “One-Hit-Wonder Twitter” love to downplay Raducanu’s run and I think it’s unfair. Kostyuk, who’s been on tour since the age of fifteen should know as well as anyone that Raducanu didn’t have any choice as to who showed up in front of her. But let’s take a closer look.

  • While there may be more “favorable” draws for a given player, no 128 player draw is “easy,” especially when you’re 150 in the world. Everyone Raducanu played in the main draw was ranked higher than her, that was her reward after fighting through three rounds of qualifying. On paper, everyone she played “should” have beat her. 
  • I’ll say it again for the people in the back, no draw is ever “easy.” Ash Barty found out the hard way, getting bounced in the third round at the hands of Shelby Rogers. Rogers is a formidable opponent, but after the Barty win and a tough doubles match, she may not have had much left emotionally or physically and became light work for Raducanu in the round of sixteen.
  • Raducanu withstood a wobbly start, going down 0-3 against Belinda Bencic (#12 in the world) in the first set of the quarterfinals. Unphased, she got her groove back to win the match 6-3, 6-4. Kostyuk by the way, after three tour level meetings, is 0-3 against Bencic. Could she have fared any better with Emma’s draw? Keep reading.
  • In the semifinal against Raducanu, Maria Sakkari spent way too much energy tugging on an ill-fitting tennis skirt instead of worrying about the player across the net, 132 ranking spots behind her. Why she didn’t have a couple of safety pins in her bag is beyond me. With her opponent shook, Raducanu cruised to victory, leaving Sakkari and Adidas to consider the implementation of drawstring technology after the loss.
  • If Sakkari was part of an “easy” draw for Raducanu, then why didn't she lose in the first round where she played, you guessed it, Marta Kostyuk. Kostyuk is 3-5 (38%) against Sakkari’s draw lifetime and 7-8 (47%) against Raducanu’s draw respectively. Raducanu did what Kostyuk should have done herself, but didn't.
  • In the final, I’ve always believed Leylah Fernandez was about to push Emma to a third set where she could have created more magic, but Emma’s bloody knee changed everything. During the mandatory MTO (like the NBA, you can’t have open wounds/blood on the court) I think the energy Fernandez put into expressing her dissatisfaction about the MTO cost her her focus. In fact it was the first time the entire tournament I witnessed her out of sorts. Just my theory, but there was nothing Emma could do about the bloody knee or Fernandez’s reaction to it, she simply locked back in and went back to work.

I don’t know if Kostyuk is salty about Emma’s success, or thinks she's undeserving of it, but it certainly feels that way. I’m plenty confident that everything that’s come to Emma Raducanu could and would come to Marta Kostyuk with a Grand Slam title to her name. And it’s unfortunate because she has some redeeming qualities. It's obvious Kostyuk wears her heart on her sleeve and that's great when used in a positive way. Her fire, tenacity, emotion and vulnerability (albeit bratty at times) on the court make her interesting to watch and root for. Her moment with the ball boy in Melbourne was something we don't get from players every day. And although she picked the wrong one, because that young dude was not phased, it made for a sweet moment and showed a side of Kostyuk that seems to be real and honest.

On the flip side, Kostyuk’s inability to reconcile her outbursts can also work against her during matches. Her emotional digressions definitely impacted the outcome of her match with Coco Gauff in Melbourne, in addition to the karma that came with the immature, dumb ass hat her husband wore to the match. For now, there's not much stopping Kostyuk from finding big success and it will be interesting to see if she figures it out. But while she continues to direct unwarranted jabs at Raducanu, it's compatriot Dayana Yastremska, who's steady on her neck that she should be most worried about.

Perhaps it’s time for everyone to come to grips with the fact that two and a half years ago, Emma Raducanu found an incredible state of flow and summoned the most perfect tennis of her young career. Who she played was never up to her, only how she played. And for the right two weeks in 2021 she was magnificent. 

It's no secret Emma Raducanu is still finding her way back to championship form, but her accomplishment is safely secured in the past, cemented in tennis history forever, and should be remembered for what it is. The world #150 simply handled her business. As the first qualifier to win the U.S. Open, she deserves to have her name engraved on that trophy, that's not up for debate. She's also earned the right to drive that Porsche freely. Music on blast. Pedal to the metal. Hair blowing in the wind, with the top comfortably down. 

Previous post Next post