Victoria Azarenka recently refused to be dragged into the furore surrounding the tumultuous times faced by Ukrainian athletes and whether it pressured her.
Azarenka, who is from Belarus, played Ukraine's Dayana Yastremska in the fourth round of the Australian Open. The 23-year-old from Odesa has exceeded pre-tournament expectations, having battled from qualifying to advance into the second week of a Grand Slam for just the second time in her career.
Despite the massive gulf in ranking and experience, Yastremska managed to upstage the two-time former Australian Open champion and book a spot in the quarterfinal. She is now within three wins from emulating Emma Raducanu's historic run at the 2021 US Open.
Speaking to reporters after the match, a crestfallen Azarenka revealed that she struggled with her serve and that her ball timing was not on par with her previous matches. But looking at the score, Azarenka will reflect on this match, disappointed at how she let her lead slip.
The Belarusian star served for the first set on two separate occasions but was foiled. In the second set, she led by a break, but a relentless Yastremska kept applying the pressure and took advantage of Azarenka's mishaps.
"I feel like just overall today, like balls were a bit off timing-wise. Serves were really low percentage of first serve today. Tried to kind of get into the game, tried to get the energy up, and didn't work today."
"So, yeah, definitely very disappointing to not be able to convert some of the opportunities to hopefully get the ball rolling a little bit better, but it happens. It's disappointing that it happened in the fourth round of a Grand Slam, but I need to definitely look at it and see what I can do better and move on. It's as simple as that."
Azarenka was also quizzed on whether her performance was partially affected by her playing a Ukrainian player. Since Russia's full-scale invasion into Ukrainian land in early 2022 - in which Belarus is a key ally of Moscow - the tennis tour has not been the same.
There has been increased tension and the development of frosty relationships between tennis players emanating from Russia and Belarus with those from Ukraine. Azarenka refused to acknowledge a question about the pressure facing a Ukrainian player.