Aryna Sabalenka refuses press for second time after claiming she’s ‘not safe’

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Aryna Sabalenka didn’t attend French Open media duties for a second time on Sunday night ahead of her quarter-final clash against Elina Svitolina. The Belarusian world No 2 has cited mental health as the reason after being quizzed about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at Roland Garros.

Sabalenka marched past 2017 runner-up Sloane Stephens with a 7-6(5), 6-4 win in the fourth round.

With her 11th consecutive Grand Slam victory, the Australian Open champion booked a quarter-final spot in Paris for the first time.

But she didn’t face the media in a post-match press conference for the second time in as many rounds on Sunday night.

A press announcement confirmed that a WTA editorial reporter would again interview Sabalenka, with the transcript to be transcribed and distributed.

The French Open released a transcript of her quotes without explanation when she snubbed duties following Friday’s third-round win against Kamilla Rakhimova.

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And the 25-year-old explained that she didn’t feel safe during an exchange with a Ukrainian reporter in her second-round press conference.

She said: “For many months now, I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts. These questions do not bother me after my matches.

“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 my press conference.

“I should be able to feel safe when I do interviews with the journalists after my matches.”

She added that the tournament supported her decision to opt against speaking to the media to focus on her “mental health and well-being”.

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But in her latest WTA-organised quotes, she answered just one question about her quarter-final meeting with Svitolina.

It could be considered the most high-profile sporting encounter between a Belarusian and Ukrainian since Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s invasion last February.

Sabalenka was born in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, an ally of Russia, and had to insist she didn’t support the war after her first-round win against Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk, who refused to shake her hand.

With her media stance, she has made it clear her entire focus is on drowning out the noise and securing back-to-back major titles.

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