Sabalenka: ‘It’s not the best feeling to be hated for nothing’

The Australian Open champion says she would stop the war if she could but she can do nothing to stop people hating her for being Belarusian

Aryna Sabalenka Tennis – WTA 500 – Stuttgart Open – Porsche Arena, Stuttgart, Germany – April 18, 2023 Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka during a press conference (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

With the continuation of the war in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion last year, tennis players’ political views have been scrutinised. Those from Russia and Belarus will be asked to sign a declaration of neutrality in order to compete at Wimbledon this year, following their ban last year.

And Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka has spoken about the ‘hate’ that she has felt on the tour in recent months.

“Definitely I feel a lot of weird looking at me and, yeah, probably hate from some of the people,” said the Australian Open champion ahead of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

“But now I just realise 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.”

Sabalenka: I have nothing to do with politics

Belarus’s president Alexander Lukashenko has publicly praised Sabalenka’s achievements, which she acknowledges might not have helped the atmosphere on tour.

“I’m pretty sure that it’s not helping. I don’t know. I don’t know what to say, because again, he can comment my game, he can comment whatever he want to. 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.

“If Ukrainians will hate me more after his speech, then like what can I do? If they feel better by hating me, I’m happy to help them with that. They can do that. But the rest, like, if I could stop the war, I would do that, but unfortunately it’s not in my hands and it’s not under my control.

“I’m just trying to stay less in the internet so I’m not going to see anything like that. I’ll be able to focus on myself and on my game and not get too depressed about this situation.”

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