Aryna Sabalenka, currently ranked second in the world, chose not to attend the usual post-match press conference following her victory in the third round of the French Open on Friday. She stated that she did not feel secure during a previous press conference held this week.
After emerging victorious in the second round of the tournament on Wednesday, the Belarusian was repeatedly prompted during a press conference to share her thoughts on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Belarus’ involvement. However, she consistently refused to comment, causing the moderator to intervene and end the questioning.
On Friday, Sabalenka mentioned that she spoke with the media as per usual after her match. She acknowledged that they tend to ask questions related to politics rather than her performance in tennis.
“I have consistently expressed my thoughts and feelings regarding these questions at tournaments for several months now.”
“After my matches, I am not bothered by these questions. I am aware that I am expected to answer media inquiries on topics unrelated to my tennis or matches, but during Wednesday’s press conference, I did not feel comfortable.”
I want to feel secure when I speak with reporters after my matches. In order to prioritize my mental and emotional well-being, I have chosen to remove myself from this situation today, and the tournament has been supportive of my decision.
“I’ve had a challenging few days, but my current goal is to maintain strong performance here in Paris.”
According to Reuters, Sabalenka’s remarks were not from a traditional press conference on Friday. Instead, they came from an interview released by tournament organizers at Roland Garros in Paris. It is typically mandatory for players to hold press conferences.
According to Reuters, organizers of the French Open have stated that their goal is to “safeguard” Sabalenka and that it will be up to her to decide whether she will participate in any future post-match press conferences.
CNN has contacted the French Tennis Federation, the organizers of the French Open, for a statement.
In 2021, there was a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding Naomi Osaka from Japan when she made the decision to not take part in press conferences during the French Open due to concerns about her mental well-being. She ultimately ended up withdrawing from the tournament before her second-round match.
Sabalenka on ‘hate’
Sabalenka has already faced challenging inquiries during her press conferences at Roland Garros. One reporter accused her of portraying Ukrainians as disliking her and sidestepping questions about condemning the war. Belarus has been a significant location for Russia’s conflict in Ukraine.
In March, Sabalenka expressed difficulty comprehending the “hate” she faced in the locker room due to tension between players after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
She reiterated her stance on the war, emphasizing that no one, including Russian and Belarusian athletes, supports it. She questioned how anyone could support such a terrible conflict and stated that rational individuals would never do so.
At present, Russian and Belarusian players are participating in tours as impartial athletes without any national symbols.
Reporting was contributed by Matias Grez of CNN.