Belarusian tennis star Aryna Sabalenka opted not to do a regular French Open press conference to protect her "own mental health and well-being." After her French Open first-round win, Sabalenka was accused by a Ukrainian journalist of avoiding condemning the war and "twisting it as if Ukrainian players hate her." Following Sabalenka's French Open second-round win, the same journalist returned with some pointed questions for the Belarusian tennis star.
On Friday, Sabalenka defeated Kamilla Rakhimova 6-2 6-2 to reach the French Open round-of-16.
Tense exchange at Aryna Sabalenka's press conference, when a Ukrainian journalist asked her a pointed question about her previous support for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko: pic.twitter.com/dHJK0Cuysm — Molly McElwee (@molly_mcelwee) May 31, 2023
In a statement, Sabalenka said she "did not feel safe" in her last press conference so the organizers selected a few journalists to conduct an interview with the Belarusian on Friday.
"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.
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. 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," Sabalenka said.
Apart from an uncomfortable situation in the press room, it has been a good French Open on the court so far for Sabalenka. So far, Sabalenka has three straight-set wins at the French Open. It remains to be seen if Sabalenka can win her second Grand Slam title at the French Open.
Following some highly charged exchanges about the war in Ukraine after previous rounds, Aryna Sabalenka didn't have an open press conference today.
She spoke to a small group of journalists (selected by the RG organisers) with the transcript circulated to the rest of the media.
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