Two days before the start of Wimbledon (July 3-16), Belarusian tennis player and world number 2 Aryna Sabalenka warned in her pre-tournament press conference that she would refuse to answer any political questions bearing in particular on the Russian invasion in Ukraine or its links with the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko.
At Roland-Garros, in early June, the player had “dried out”, with the agreement of the organizers, two post-match press conferences after being questioned several times on the subject.
“Before continuing, I would like to tell you that I will not talk about politics”announced the 25-year-old player. “I’m here to talk only about tennis. Please respect that. If you have any political questions, you can ask the WTA or the [organisateurs du] tournament, they will send you transcripts of my responses from previous tournaments”she added.
Like all Russian and Belarusian players, Sabalenka was banned from Wimbledon in 2002. This year, the ban was lifted, but they all had to sign a declaration of neutrality and cannot wear their countries’ colors under any circumstances. form. They also had to prove that they are not supported by any state authority and do not receive any funding from companies targeted by international sanctions because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Asked about the reception she expected to receive from the London public, Sabalenka assured not “expect nothing”. “I just hope they support me like they have for years past. That’s all “did she say.
Semi-finalist in 2021, Sabalenka is one of the three favorites, with the Polish world number 1 Iga Swiatek, who has never reached the round of 16 on the grass of Wimbledon, and defending champion Elena Rybakina, struggling with a viral infection since Roland-Garros. “I’m pretty sure that if I can play my best tennis, I can do really well at Wimbledon”she only conceded.