Pegula Defends Sabalenka's "Right" To Turn Down Press Confernces

Pegula Defends Sabalenka's "Right" To Turn Down Press Confernces

by Alex Waite

Jessica Pegula has defended Aryna Sabalenka's ongoing decision to skip press conferences during the 2023 Roland Garros.

Following successful first-round and second-round victories at Roland Garros, Sabalenka was put under pressure by journalists in both post-match press conferences. First, the Belarusian faced confrontation after Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands in the first round match before tensions continued after Sabalenka defeated Iryna Shymanovich in the second round.

As a result, Sabalenka has since turned down both press conferences after her third and fourth-round victories and said she does not feel safe in the press environment currently. In her BBC column to cover the French Open, fellow WTA player Pegula has praised Sabalenka for finding alternatives to handling the press and the US world number three also said the 25-year-old is correct to withdraw from the conferences if she needs to.

"Sabalenka still found a way to do press, giving quotes to the Women's Tennis Association, which were then distributed to other reporters."

Pegula wrote in her BBC column

"She has been hammered with questions about the war in Ukraine and Belarus' support of Russia. She clearly felt enough was enough. I think that's her right. It's the right of the press to ask the questions they want to ask, but also it is her right not to answer them if she doesn't want to answer them."

Also in her column, Pegula compared Sabalenka's situation to Naomi Osaka's position two years ago. At the tournament, Osaka explained how her mental health was not in the right place to answer questions and Pegula feels the Roland Garros organisers have responded positively about press issues ever since.

"Two years ago there was a similar issue when Naomi Osaka did not want to speak to the media to protect her mental health. I guess the French Open are now being more empathetic about players' mental health needs surrounding press conferences."

"What Naomi did alerted people to the possibility of doing what Sabalenka did and for the tournament to work ways around it."


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