More than a year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the support of Belarus, tennis is still struggling to manage the situation in its tournaments. The players of these two nations compete under a neutral flag, but the chance of the tables can very well oppose them to Ukrainians.

"Of course there is a lot of tension between us," Belarusian world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka admitted Friday about relations between players and players from the three countries. "But I remain convinced that I have done nothing wrong to the Ukrainians, neither me nor the Russians," defended the winner of the last Australian Open, after her victory at the expense of the Greek Maria Sakkari, to reach the final of the WTA 1000 in Indian Wells, California.

"None of us have control over this situation. We all try to stay calm in the locker room... We understand all Ukrainians and we feel really bad for them, "added the one who will meet in the final (as in Melbourne) the Kazakh Elena Rybakina, who fell to the Polish world number 1 Iga Swiatek in the semis.

The Tsurenko case

And the tension escalated this week, when a player from that country, Lesia Tsurenko, withdrew just before meeting Sabalenka in the 3rd round. Tsurenko later told Ukrainian website Big Tennis that he suffered a "panic attack" after a conversation with the WTA boss about the consequences of the war in his country.

Iga Swiatek reacted, saying he understood Tsurenko. "Honestly, I respect Ukrainian women a lot, because if a bomb fell in my country or my house was destroyed, I don't know if I could stand it." "No one can control the emotions of others. And I think the WTA is doing its best in this regard to support both sides," Sabalenka said, adding: "Tsurenko's withdrawal is not due to a panic attack or the political situation."

Sabalenka's enigmatic words

"I think there's something more. I found myself in a very difficult situation last year with his coach, because of the way he behaved with me. I think this guy put a lot of pressure on him, and that's why it happened," she continued, without giving further details about the alleged incident.

"I've been through so many difficult times, but unfortunately I can't say, because, after all, who is going to believe the Belarusian girl? The more I talk, the better I stop," Sabalenka concluded.

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