World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka will not answer any questions about politics at Wimbledon this year.
Sabalenka, 25, who is from Belarus, has faced questions at previous tournaments about her country’s involvement in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In her pre-Wimbledon news conference on Saturday, she told the media she has made the decision to not answer any questions on the war.
“Before we continue I would like to say I’m not going to talk about politics,” Sabalenka said. “I’m here to talk about tennis only. Please respect that. If you have any kind of political questions, you can ask WTA or the tournament. They can send you the transcript of my answers from the previous tournaments.”
When asked later if she had been pressured into making this statement, Sabalenka answered: “It’s my personal decision.”
Despite a run to the French Open semifinals, Sabalenka had a turbulent time at Roland Garros.
After facing questions from a Ukrainian journalist about Belarus’ involvement in the invasion following first- and second-round victories, she opted out of attending the third-round news conference, saying she did not “feel safe.”
Sabalenka next faced the media after her quarterfinal win over Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. In that news conference she was asked if she supported Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko. Sabalenka responded: “It’s a tough question. I don’t support war, meaning I don’t support Lukashenko right now.”
“I said it many times already, I’m not supporting war,” she said at that news conference. “I don’t want my country to be involved in any conflict. I said it many times, and you know where I stand, you know. You have my position. You have my answer. I answered it many times. I’m not supporting the war.”
This followed her explanation of why she opted not to take part in news conferences after her third- and fourth-round victories. “I felt like journalist try to put the words in my mouth. I didn’t feel comfortable. This is just the way I felt.”
Sabalenka previously addressed the reaction she has received from other players at tournaments this season due to the war, saying in March that she faced “hate” in the locker room “for no reason.”
Sabalenka is back at Wimbledon after missing last year’s tournament as the organizers banned players from Russia and Belarus from participating. She said Saturday she opted not to watch much of the 2022 tournament.
“I didn’t watch Wimbledon a lot,” Sabalenka said. “I felt so bad and I just couldn’t watch it. Every time if Wimbledon would be on TV, I would cry, so… I decided just to stay away from Wimbledon last year.”
Second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka avoiding politics at Wimbledon