Aryna Sabalenka: I don't support the war or Belarus president Lukashenko | Inquirer Sports

Aryna Sabalenka: I don’t support the war or Belarus president Lukashenko

/ 12:59 PM June 07, 2023

Aryna Sabalenka French Open

Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after winning against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina at the end of their women’s singles quarter-final match on day ten of the Roland Garros Open tennis tournament at the Court Philippe-Chatrier in Paris on June 6, 2023. (Photo by JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP)

PARIS – Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka said on Tuesday at the French Open that she did not want her country to be in any conflict and did not support the war in Ukraine, distancing herself from President Alexander Lukashenko.

The world number two did not attend her last two press conferences in Paris, citing mental health reasons after being grilled about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, and Belarus being used as a staging ground for Russian troops.

“I don’t want my country to be in any conflict, I don’t support the war,” Sabalenka told reporters after her quarterfinal victory over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.

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“I don’t support war, meaning I don’t support (Belarus President) Alexander Lukashenko right now.”

Sabalenka said she did not feel safe enough to talk to the media last week.

“I really felt bad not coming here. I couldn’t sleep. Like all those bad feelings was in my head, I couldn’t fall asleep. I felt really bad not coming here,” Sabalenka said.

“I don’t regret the decisions. I felt really disrespected, and I felt really bad. Grand Slam, it’s enough pressure to handle, and I just tried to focus on myself, on my game,” she said.

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“I really hope that you guys will understand me, my feelings. You know that I really respect all of you… You can ask whatever you want. You will get all the information.

“But in the last press conference, I felt like my press conference became a political TV show, and I’m not expert in politics. I’m just a tennis player.”

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Lukashenko, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s staunchest ally among its neighbors, celebrated Sabalenka’s Australian Open victory in January and said recently that people knew which country she hailed from even if she was playing under a neutral flag.

Sabalenka, who has met Lukashenko, had refused to comment when asked if she personally condemned the war.

“We played a lot of Fed Cups in Belarus. He was in our matches taking pictures with us after the match. Nothing bad was happening that time in Belarus or in Ukraine or in Russia,” she said.

Sabalenka was asked if she felt safe during Tuesday’s press conference.

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“Yes, I do,” she said. “Probably because I had a few days to switch off, few days to bring myself together. That’s why I feel safer. And nobody’s putting words in my mouth, so that’s another reason.”

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TAGS: Aryna Sabalenka, French Open

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