Aryna Sabalenka anxious to avoid political talks over Wimbledon return – News Block

Aryna Sabalenka

FILE PHOTO: Tennis – Australian Open – Women’s Singles Photo Session – Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne, Australia – January 29, 2023 Australian Open, Belarus champion Aryna Sabalenka kisses the trophy during a photo session REUTERS/Hannah McKay/

Aryna Sabalenka will try to focus on tennis and not politics in her return to Wimbledon, and the “super emotional” Belarusian said on Saturday she was relishing the chance to compete at the Grand Slam again.

The grass Major that begins on Monday will welcome players from Russia and Belarus this year after reversing a 2022 ban due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, during which Belarus was used as a staging area.

Sabalenka skipped two press conferences at the French Open citing mental health reasons following media questions about Russia’s aggression before finally declaring she did not support war.

The world number two, who has also distanced herself from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, said her mind was on the game.

“I always tell myself that the best thing I can do is focus on the things I have control over,” Sabalenka told reporters. “That is really helping a lot to not think about anything other than tennis.

“I have no expectations (of the crowd). I just hope they support me like they did last year, hopefully.”

Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, said she missed competing at Wimbledon last year and sometimes cried when she watched the action from her home.

“I am super emotional right now. I am super happy to be back. I really miss this place. When I first got here, I was just enjoying myself. I couldn’t believe I’m here,” she said.

“I feel good. I don’t have any kind of expectations. The only expectation I have is to bring my best tennis every time I’m on the court. Hopefully I will.”

Along with world number one Iga Swiatek and titleholder Elena Rybakina, Sabalenka is among the favorites for the title and have been dubbed the “Big Three” of women’s tennis by fans and pundits alike due to their recent dominance.

“It’s great to be one of those great players,” said Sabalenka, who will face Panna Udvardy in the first round.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to give my best tennis, I’ll be focused from the beginning to the end, I’m pretty sure I can do very well.”

Wimbledon takes place from July 3 to 16.

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