Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, some WTA players have been outspoken about the ongoing hostilities between competitors on tour. Particular antagonism has been aimed at Russian and Belarusian players over the last year.
Some players have even refused to shake hands on the court as the tensions have gone beyond the locker room on some occasions. When asked about the current situation between players ahead of the upcoming Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart, Aryna Sabalenka spoke honestly about how she feels the dislike from her competitors.
"I mean, yeah, definitely I feel a lot of weird looking at me and, yeah, probably hate from some of the people."
Despite the antagonism aimed at her, Sabalenka was eager to explain her stance on the war again after she previously said the criticism and negativity had affected her performance. In addition, the WTA world number two emphasised that she doesn't want to be hated just for being Belarusian.
"But now I just realize that I have done nothing bad to Ukraine and I did nothing. There is some people don't like me just because I was born in Belarus. It's like it's their decision, and I cannot control that. Yeah, it's not the best feeling to be hated from people for basically nothing, but it is how it is."
During her pre-Stuttgart press conference, Sabalenka was also asked about Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who mentioned the 24-year-old in a recent political speech. However, Sabalenka reinforced the message that she just wants to focus on tennis and nothing else.
"Again, I have nothing to do with politics. I'm just an athlete, yes, from Belarus, and I'm just trying to do my best in my sport. Just trying to focusing on myself."