Superstar tennis player Aryna Sabalenka has shared her feelings about how she faced hate in the Women’s Tennis Association locker room. The current world No. 2 described that other players were not talking to her due to the Russia-Ukraine war that her home nation Belarus hasn’t condemned.
Since February 24, 2022, Russia and Ukraine have been in a state of war with no signs of compromise so far. Russia invaded Ukraine prompting international backlash. This has even affected them sportingly with many of their athletes and teams facing bans and backlash.
Aryna has been quite vocal and open about her stance on the war. The World No. 1 in doubles previously said that no athlete is responsible for what their country’s government does and has spoken of wanting peace. But this has not prevented her from facing backlash just because of her home nation Belarus.
Belarus is one of the few countries to openly support the invasion and remains one of Russia’s top allies. This has led to many of its athletes facing backlash both on social media and even from their fellow athletes.
What did Aryna Sabalenka say about the locker room situation?
Speaking before the Miami Open, Aryna Sabalenka shared how she was facing animosity in the locker room,
“It was really, really tough for me because I’ve never faced that much hate in the locker room. 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.”
She described the situation as very difficult for her, “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.”
— Sportskeeda Tennis (@SK__Tennis) March 22, 2023
Tensions reached the ceiling when Lesia Tsurenko, a Ukrainian tennis player refused to face Sabalenka in the third round of the Indian Wells tournament and gave a walkover to her Belarusian opponent. Authorities cited that she refused to participate due to ‘personal reasons’. She later claimed it was a result of a ‘panic attack’.
Tsurenko’s coach Nikita Vlasov even made a claim that Sabalenka secretly supports the war even though Sabalenka has never said anything like that.
The Australian Open champion described the situation as calmer now, “It was really tough but now it’s getting better. I had some, not like fights, but I had some weird conversations with, not the girls, but with members of their team. It was really, it was tough. It was a tough period. But, now it’s getting better.”
Aryna Sabalenka: “I still believe I did nothing bad to Ukrainians; not me or Russian & Belarusian athletes..All of us are trying go be calm in the locker room & keep understanding that it’s not our fault. All of us understand Ukrainians, & we really feel bad for them, you know.” pic.twitter.com/1Qu6at06Ob
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) March 18, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka will now face Shelby Rogers in the Miami Open Round of 64.
Do you think athletes like Aryna Sabalenka should face backlash for what their government does? Or do they deserve some of the backlashes? Let us know in the comments down below!