Tennis-Sabalenka says WTA doing its best to support players amid tensions due to war

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 26, 2023 Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka in action during her semi final match against Poland’s Magda Linette REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

(Reuters) - World number two Aryna Sabalenka said the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) was doing a good job of supporting players from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus amid tensions in the locker room following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year.

Ukraine's Lesia Tsurenko withdrew from her match with Belarusian Sabalenka at Indian Wells due to what she said was a panic attack triggered by a chat with WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon about tennis's response to Russia's invasion.

Belarus has been a staging ground for what Moscow calls a "special military operation".

The top-ranked Iga Swiatek called for more support to be offered to Ukrainian players after Tsurenko's pullout and said the actions taken by the tennis leadership was not enough.

"Nobody can control the emotions of others. I think the WTA are doing their best," Sabalenka said after reaching the Indian Wells final on Friday.

Sabalenka said there was still tension between players but individual athletes had not done anything wrong.

"Not me, not Russian athletes, not Belarusian athletes, not one of us did something bad. So what else I can I say? I think the WTA are doing a really great job to support both sides," Sabalenka said.

"All of us are trying to keep calm in the locker room and keep understanding that this is not our fault and that all of us understand Ukrainians and we really feel bad for them."

Sabalenka takes on Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina in the final at Indian Wells on Sunday in a rematch of their Australian Open title clash which the Belarusian won for her first Grand Slam crown.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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