Tennis world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka says her recent run of career-best form is being soured by “hate” from other players amid the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war.
Sabalenka claimed her maiden grand slam at the Australian Open earlier this year and looked set to back it up with a title at Indian Well last week until Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina stopped her in the final.
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Speaking ahead of this week’s Miami Open, Sabalenka was asked about the “tensions” she has felt in the women’s locker room between Ukrainian and Russian and Belarus players.
“It was really, really tough for me because I’ve never faced that much hate in the locker room,” Sabalenka told reporters.
“Of course, there are a lot of haters on Instagram when you’re losing the matches, but like in the locker room, I’ve never faced that.
“It was really tough for me to understand that there are so many people who really hate me for no reason, like no reason. I mean, like, I did nothing.”
Speaking during Indian Wells, Sabalenka said she had clashed with Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko’s coach Nikita Vlasov.
The 24-year-old said she had been made to feel guilt without having done anything wrong.
“I had some, not like fights, but I had some weird conversations with, not the girls, but with members of their team,” she said.
“It was really, it was tough. It was tough period. But, now it’s getting better.
“I was really struggling with that because I really felt bad, like I did something and it’s still not so good in the locker room with some of the Ukrainian girls. But then I realised that it’s not my fault and I did nothing bad to them. And I’m pretty sure that the rest of the Russian and Belarusian athletes did nothing to Ukrainians.
“I just realised that this is all emotions and I just need to like ignore it and focus on myself with understanding that I did nothing bad. And I cannot control emotions of others.
“It seems like, everyone’s just ignoring each other. Not everyone actually, I’m still talking to some of the Ukrainians, but there are some of the girls who are like really aggressive against us. So I’m just staying away from that.”
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