Arina Zabalenka faced the media for the first time since earlier this month after mocking the war and her country’s involvement as a staging ground for Russian weapons and troops. Citing mental health reasons, the world number two skipped the press conference after his last two matches. But following her quarter-final victory over Elina Svitolina, Zabalenka did not break her silence on the Ukraine war, and she explained her act on Court Philippe Chatrier, which she claimed had angered the French Open crowd.
It was a comfortable 6-4 6-4 for Sabalenka, who reached her maiden semi-final at Roland Garros. She is now chasing her second career Grand Slam after lifting the Australian Open in January this year. A win could also clinch the top spot against reigning French Open champion Iga Svitek. After the contest, Zabalenka admitted that she was against the war, thereby distancing herself from President Alexander Lukashenko.
“I have already said many times that I do not support war. I don’t want my country to get involved in any conflict. I’ve said it many times, you know where I stand, you know. You have my place. You have my answer. I answered it many times. I do not support war. I don’t want sports to be involved in politics because I am a tennis player, a 25-year-old tennis player. If I wanted to be political I wouldn’t be here. I don’t want to get involved in any politics. “I want to be a tennis player,” she said.
Asked directly whether Belarus supports President Lukashenko facilitating the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she replied: “It’s a tough question. I mean, I don’t support the war, I mean I don’t support Lukashenko now.
Earlier, Svitolina was kicked off the court after refusing to shake hands with Sabalenka, a practice she and all other Ukrainian players have maintained against Russian and Belarusian players on tour. Sabalenka, 28, was accused of “waking up” the crowd after walking to the net for a handshake.
When asked about it, the Belarusian explained: “I don’t know. It was just an instinct like I always do after all my matches. I don’t think she deserves all these boos. I think I give her a lot of respect for what she’s doing postpartum. It’s impressive and I’m really impressed with what she’s doing. I give her great respect. “…