"Who is gonna believe a Belarusian girl?" - Sabalenka Hits Back After Controversy

"Who is gonna believe a Belarusian girl?" - Sabalenka Hits Back After Controversy

by Sebastian Dahlman

Last updated

Aryna Sabalenka has spoken out against the recent incendiary comments made by Lesia Tsurenko and her coach, Nikita Vlasov, following her successful run to the 2023 Indian Wells final.

Sabalenka's candid response comes after being embroiled in a controversy surrounding the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and its impact on athletes. At the 2023 Indian Wells, Sabalenka secured a spot in the final after a decisive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Maria Sakkari.

However, it was her earlier match against Tsurenko that sparked controversy, as the Ukrainian player withdrew just before their scheduled 3rd-round encounter. The reason for Tsurenko's withdrawal was later revealed to be a panic attack triggered by remarks from WTA CEO Steve Simon.

In a recent press conference, Sabalenka addressed the accusations leveled against her by Lesia Tsurenko's coach, Nikita Vlasov, who implied she "theoretically" supported the war. The Belarusian firmly dismissed these claims, arguing that neither Russian nor Belarusian athletes should be held accountable for their governments' actions. Sabalenka also revealed that some athletes have been quietly aiding Ukraine's relief efforts.

"Nobody can control the emotions of others. And I think WTA are doing their best to kind of control it. Yeah, of course, it's a lot of tension between us. I mean, I still have this belief that I did nothing bad to Ukrainians; not me, not Russian athletes, not Belarusian athletes, not one of us did something bad. Even some of us are helping. Not publicly."

The reigning Australian Open champion expressed her disappointment at the situation and went on to acknowledge the difficult position she finds herself in.

"So what else I can say? I think WTA are doing really great job to support both sides, and whatever -- I mean, I cannot control their emotions. I was through so many bad things, and unfortunately, I'm not able to say that because who is gonna believe a Belarusian girl? I mean, talking about her coach. I have been through also through hell, and I understand that... I don't know."

The Belarusian star speculated that there might be more to Tsurenko's withdrawal than meets the eye, suggesting that her past experience with Tsurenko's coach could be a factor.

"I think Tsurenko withdrew, there was more than a panic attack or more than a political situation. I think there is something more. I had really tough situation last year with her coach the way he act to me. So I think that guy put so much pressure on her, and that's why that happen."


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