Aryna Salabenka boycotts post-match presser at the French Open over links to Belarusian dictator

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Aryna Salabenka boycotts post-match presser at the French Open amid questions over links to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko… and claims the withdrawal is for her own ‘mental health and well being’

  • Aryna Sabalenka refused to do her obligatory post-match press conference 
  • The Australian Open champion was quizzed on ties to Alexander Lukashenko 
  • Sabalenka claimed it was for the benefit of her mental health not to do presser  

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The most fractious French Open week in recent times continued today with women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka boycotted her obligatory post-match press conference.

The Australian Open champion from Belarus instead granted an audience with handpicked media after she made it through to the fourth round of the tournament.

After her previous match Sabalenka was asked by a journalist originally from the Donbas region of Ukraine, representing Tribuna.Com, about her ties to Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko.

These have been previously well-documented and the player, clearly uncomfortable, declined to make any comment.

The French Open refused to reveal who exactly had been designated to speak to Sabalenka, who told her interviewer: ‘For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. 

Aryna Sabalenka boycotted her post-match press conference at the French Open today

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Aryna Sabalenka boycotted her post-match press conference at the French Open today

Sabalenka had previously faced questions over her ties to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko

Sabalenka had previously faced questions over her ties to Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko 

‘I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference. 

‘I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches. For my own mental health and well-being, I have decided to take myself out of this situation today, and the tournament has supported me in this decision.

‘It hasn’t been an easy few days, and now my focus is continue to play well here in Paris.’

Sabalenka, in common with numerous Russian players, has been enjoying a successful Roland Garros and is among the favourites for the title.

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Her avoidance of the press, for which she will not be fined, adds to the turbulent atmosphere of a week which also saw Novak Djokovic make a statement about Serbian claims on Kosovo.

Questions about Russia and Ukraine have abounded in media conferences and out on the court there has been a surfeit of booing, even by the standards of this tournament.

This afternoon Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina defeated Anna Blinkova of Russia 2-6 6-2 7-5 to make the last sixteen. Afterwards Svitolina did acknowledge her opponent but stopped short of shaking hands at the net.

The Australian Open champion refused to do the presser for the benefit of her 'mental health'

The Australian Open champion refused to do the presser for the benefit of her ‘mental health’ 

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