Sabalenka Avoids 'Open' Press Conference After Clash With Journalist

Sabalenka Avoids 'Open' Press Conference After Clash With Journalist

by Zachary Wimer

Aryna Sabalenka made an interesting decision after her third-round victory at the 2023 Roland Garros.

At the second Grand Slam of the season, the Belarusian has a chance to become the new World No. 1 and she's doing everything possible to do that. The pressure on the court is big but off the court, it seems to be even bigger for potentially highest-ranked player on the WTA Tour.

The pressure comes because of her nationality, previous actions, and an ongoing war in Ukraine. Already after her first-round win in Paris, Sabalenka was accused by one of the journalist for twisting words and the feud continued also after her second-round victory.

After beating fellow compatriot Iryna Shymanovich, the same reporter that accused Sabalenka during the previous press conference, attempted to ask a question to the Belarusian, which seemed to be inappropriate to her as the journalist asked:

"I want to ask you two questions. First, it's about Belarus. Then in 2020 you signed a letter to support Lukashenko, in times when he was torturing and beating up protestants in the street. And then eventually you showed up celebrating the new year with him. How is it possible that the potential World No. 1 supports a dictator and --"

Maybe also because of the previous interaction and accusations after her first-round win, following which Sabalenka stated that she understands why her Ukrainian opponent didn't shake her hand, the Belarusian elected not to answer the questions from the given journalist.

"I have no comments to you, so thank you for your question. I've got no comments to you. You've got enough answers from me, and I've got no comments to you."

It's very probable that the same journalist awaited Sabalenka in the media room also after her third-round win over Kamila Rakhimova from Russia, so the second seed made a decision to avoid an 'open' press conference to protect her own mental health, instead only selected journalists were able to attend. Speaking at the 'closed' press conference, she said:

"Yeah, after my match I spoke with the media like I normally do. I know they still expect some questions that are more about the politics and not so much about my tennis. For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts."

Sabalenka made sure to emphasize that questions about politics, even though she thinks they should not really mix, don't really bother her. However, she made it clear that she felt unsafe during he press conference after her second-round win, most probably because of the journalist in question.

"These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference."

The Belarusian has therefore decided to 'take herself out of that situation' to protect her mental health, and as the press conference was held according to her ideas, the tournament organizers supported her in the decision.

"I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches. For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision. It hasn't been an easy few days, and now my focus is continue to play well here in Paris."


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