Sabalenka ‘feels bad’ for Ukrainian players amid war tensions

The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to cause tension in the tennis world, and Belarusian Arina Sobolenko said on Friday that not only Ukrainian players are under pressure.

“Of course, there’s a lot of tension between us,” Australian Open champion Sobalenko said after defeating Maria Sakkari to reach the final of the combined WTA/ATP Masters 1000 in the California desert.

But, she added, “I still have the conviction that I didn’t do anything wrong to the Ukrainians – not to myself, not to the Russian athletes.”

The WTA and ATP tours ban players from Russia and its ally Belarus from competing under their national flags, but insist individual athletes are eligible to compete.

Wimbledon, which banned players from Russia and Belarus last year, is reportedly ready to let them return.

Sobolenko, who said before the tournament that she struggled with guilt last year but eventually concluded the situation was not her fault, was back in the spotlight this week when Ukrainian Lesya Tsurenko withdrew from the match. third round.

Tsurenko later told Big Tennis Ukraine that she was having a panic attack, overwhelmed with emotion days after speaking with WTA chief executive Steve Simon about the ongoing tensions surrounding the war, in which she found Simon unsupportive.

Sobolenko said she thought the WTA had dealt with players from all countries.

“I have experienced so many bad things, and, unfortunately, I cannot say this, because who would believe a Belarusian girl,” she said.

“I think Tsurenko’s departure was more than a panic attack or more than a political situation.

“I think there is something else. Last year I had a very difficult situation with her coach because of the way he behaved with me. That’s why I think this guy put such a lot of pressure on her, and that’s why it happened.

“This has nothing to do with the WTA. They do their best. None of us is in control in this situation.

“We are all just trying to keep calm in the dressing room… we all understand Ukrainians and we feel very sorry for them.”

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

“To be honest, I have a lot of respect for Ukrainian girls, because if a bomb fell on my country or if my house was destroyed, I don’t know if I can handle it, to be honest, and play in the WTA and compete” .



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