Aryna Sabalenka opened up about feeling hate because of her nationality and not being able to change it.
The Belarusian is the second highest-ranked player on the WTA Tour right now, and thanks to her recent success, she's certainly one of the most feared too. In the past, Sabalenka spoke about feeling hate in the locker room, and now she opened up about it again ahead of the 2023 Italian Open in Rome.
As tensions remain high and conflict continues to impact the world, Sabalenka spoke candidly about the persisting challenges faced by athletes from her country, as well as the pressure to find acceptance on the world stage when she was asked about what changed.
"Well, it's a tough question because everything, I want to say, you can play around it. It's tough to say. What exactly you mean 'changed'? The ones who was hating us before, I don't know, our country, for where we're from, they still hate us."
Despite the ongoing war, Sabalenka expressed gratitude that she and her fellow Belarusian players are allowed to compete, giving credit to the WTA for managing the situation as best as they can.
"This didn't change and I don't think it's going to change because of the situation. I'm happy that we are allowed playing, that WTA doing everything they can to kind of handle this situation as good as they can. Yeah, that's it."
The world number two stressed that the only change she has experienced personally is a shift in her mindset as she has chosen to focus on herself and her career.
"The only thing change for myself, not like I stop thinking about that, I just start focusing on myself and understand that I've done nothing bad to Ukraines, that is not my fault, not the fault of Russian and Belarusian athletes. We are just an athlete who could do what they can and who play sport. This is the only thing what help me to stay focus and just to play tennis."
The expectations placed on them to somehow influence or resolve the situation can be overwhelming and that's why Sabalenka tries to avoid it.
"This is the only change. The rest, how can I change? It's the war. It's not like yesterday they hate us, today they love us, no. It is how it is. Unfortunately we have zero control on this situation. Yeah, that's the worse, that people expect something from us, and we cannot do anything. That's the bad thing about the situation."