The Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to create tension in the tennis world. Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka said on Friday that Ukrainian players are not the only ones feeling the strain. “There’s a lot of tension between us,” said Australian Open winner Sabalenka after defeating Maria Sakkari in the final of the combined WTA and ATP Masters 1000 tournament in the California desert. But she added: “I remain convinced that I did nothing to the Ukrainians, neither to me nor to the Russian athletes.” WTA and ATP tournaments ban players from Russia and its ally Belarus from competing under national flags but insist individual athletes have the right to compete.
Wimbledon, which suspended players from Russia and Belarus last year, is expected to bring them back. Sabalenka, who said before the tournament she struggled with guilt last year but ultimately concluded the situation wasn’t her fault, took the spotlight again this week as Ukraine’s Lesia Cerenko was eliminated in the third game round. Read More: Which 27 players have captained India in ODI cricket history?
Tsurenko later told Big Tennis of Ukraine she was having a panic attack, and the overwhelming emotion came just days afterspeaking to WTA CEO Steve Simon about the ongoing tensions surrounding the war, in which she found Simon without support. Sabalenka said she believes the WTA will also be treated when dealing with players from all countries. “I’ve been through so many bad things and unfortunately I can’t say it because who would believe a Belarusian girl,” she said. I think Cherenko’s withdrawal was more of a panic attack or more of a political situation. “I think there’s more. Last year I had a very difficult situation with his coach, how he behaved towards me. So I think that this guy put so much pressure on them and that’s why it happened. This has nothing to do with the WTA. They do their best. None of us are in control of this situation. “We all try to be calm in the dressing room… we all understand Ukrainians and feel very sorry for them.” However, world number one Iga Świątek of Poland said she understood Cerenko’s decision. “Honestly I have a lot of respect for Ukrainian girls because if a bomb fell on my country or my house was destroyed, I honestly don’t know if I could handle playing and competing in the WTA.”