By Shrivathsa Sridhar PARIS (Reuters) – Belarusian world number two Aryna Sabalenka reached the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday by beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and was accused of fanning the flames by waiting for a handshake that would not come before making her stance on the war clear. Czech Karolina Muchova earlier stopped former Roland […]
Tennis-Sabalenka sets up Muchova clash at French Open, takes stand against war
By Shrivathsa Sridhar
PARIS (Reuters) – Belarusian world number two Aryna Sabalenka reached the French Open semi-finals on Tuesday by beating Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and was accused of fanning the flames by waiting for a handshake that would not come before making her stance on the war clear.
Czech Karolina Muchova earlier stopped former Roland Garros runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova with a 7-5 6-2 win to cruise into the semi-finals for the first time in her career.
She will meet Sabalenka for a place in the final.
Svitolina had said she would not shake hands with players from Russia or Belarus after Moscow’s invasion of her country last year, which it calls a “special military operation”.
Belarus is a key staging area for Russia’s actions.
“I don’t know, to be fair, what she was waiting for, because my statements were clear about the handshake,” said Svitolina, who was booed by the fickle French Open crowd for walking to her bench while Sabalenka waited at the net after winning 6-4 6-4.
Having skipped two press conferences at Roland Garros after being grilled by the media about her personal stance on the war, Sabalenka finally addressed reporters again.
“I don’t want my country to be in any conflict, I don’t support the war,” second seed Sabalenka said.
“I don’t support war, meaning I don’t support (Belarus President) Alexander Lukashenko right now.”
Sabalenka, who had skipped the earlier press conferences citing mental health reasons and saying that she did not feel safe after being repeatedly questioned about the war, said she did not regret skipping her media duties.
“I really felt bad not coming here. I couldn’t sleep. Like all those bad feelings were in my head,” Sabalenka said.
“I don’t regret the decisions. I felt really disrespected and felt really bad. I mean, (at a) Grand Slam, it’s enough pressure to handle, and I tried to focus on myself, on my game.
“I really hope you guys will understand me, my feelings. You know I really respect all of you and I’m always open. You can ask whatever you want. You will get all the information.
“But in the last press conference, I felt like my press conference became a political TV show, and I’m not (an) expert in politics. I’m just a tennis player.”
Novak Djokovic, who is bidding for a men’s record 23rd Grand Slam title was in action against 11th seed Karen Khachanov.
World number one Carlos Alcaraz will meet fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the night session.
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar, Julien Pretot and Karolos Grohmann in Paris; Editing by Christian Radnedge)