Wimbledon champion Jelena Rybakina (Kazakhstan) and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) will contest the final of the WTA tournament in Indian Wells on Sunday. Rybakina won in the semifinals against world number one Iga Swiatek (Poland), handicapped by a rib bruise, 6-2, 6-2. Sabalenka beat Greek Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3.
Sabalenka then spoke about the situation on the tour since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. "It's not just the Ukrainian players who feel this tension between us," said the 24-year-old, whose home country Belarus is on the side of the Russians.
However, she herself is still convinced "that I myself and the Russian players of Ukraine have done nothing wrong". However, at the beginning of the war on February 24, 2022, she "carried a lot of guilt in me. At some point I realized that this war was not my fault."
The Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko had waived in Indian Wells after a conversation with WTA boss Steve Simon on the third round match against Sabalenka. Simon told her quite succinctly that she should not be bothered by the fact that players from Russia and Belarus support their countries, because that is her opinion. As a result, according to Tsurenko, she was no longer able to compete against Sabalenka.
Tsurenko's coach Nikita Vladov had accused Sabalenka a few days ago of supporting the regime in Belarus and therefore partly to blame for the current situation in Ukraine: "It is also your fault, Aryna, you support the bloody regime of your dictator, you vote for him, you stand by his side. And you also support his behavior towards Ukraine."
Sabalenka pointed out that she herself has often experienced difficult times: "But unfortunately I am not allowed to talk about my problems, because who would believe a Belarusian girl?"
Iga Sviatek demonstratively stood by the Ukrainian players after her defeat against Rybakina. "I respect them very much," said the Pole: "And seriously: If a bomb were to land in my homeland and destroy my home, I don't know how I would deal with it and whether I would still be able to play on the tour."