Aryna Sabalenka ‘feels bad’ about Ukrainian players amid war tensions

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to stoke tensions in the tennis world, with Belarusian Arina Sabalenka saying Friday that it’s not just Ukrainian players who are feeling the pressure. “Of course we have a tense relationship,” Australian Open champion Sabalenka said after beating Maria Sakari to reach the WTA and ATP Masters 1000 finals in the California desert. But, she added, “I still believe I haven’t done anything bad to Ukrainians — not me, not Russian athletes.”

The WTA and ATP tours banned players from Russia and its ally Belarus from competing under their flags, but insisted that individual athletes have the right to compete.

Wimbledon, which banned Russian and Belarusian players last year, is reportedly poised to return them.

Sabalenka said before the match that she struggled with guilt last year but ultimately concluded the situation was not her fault. Sabalenka was once again in the spotlight this week when Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko dropped out of the third round.

Tsurenko later told the Ukrainian Open portal that she had a panic attack, which came days after a conversation with WTA chief executive Steve Simon about ongoing tensions related to a war she found Simon did not support. Emotions.

Sabalenka said she felt the WTA was treated fairly when dealing with players from all countries.

“I’ve been through a lot of bad things, unfortunately, I can’t say that because who would trust Belarusian girls,” she said.

“I think Tsurenko’s exit was not just a panic attack or just a political situation.

“I think there’s more to it. The way her coach treated me last year put me in a very difficult position. So I think that person put a lot of pressure on her and that’s why it happened.

“This has nothing to do with the WTA. They are doing their best. None of us can control this situation.

“All of us[were]just trying to be calm in the locker room… all of us understand the Ukrainians and we really feel sorry for them.”

However, world number one Iga Swiatek of Poland said she understood Tsurenko’s decision.

“Honestly, I have a lot of respect for Ukrainian girls because if a bomb falls on my country, or my home is destroyed, I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it, play in the WTA and compete.”

topics mentioned in this article

Arina Sabalenka Elena Rybakina tennis

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