This year's female Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka says that during the women's tour she faced hatred in the changing rooms due to tensions between Ukrainian and Russian or Belarusian players.
"Of course, there are a lot of people who spread hate on Instagram when you lose a match, but in the dressing room – I've never experienced that," says Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and continues:
"It was hard for me to understand that there are so many people who really hate me for no real reason. I mean, I haven't done anything.
World number two Sabalenka on Sunday lost the final of the WTA tournament Indian Wells to Kazakhstan's Yelena Rybakina.
Sabalenka was supposed to have faced Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko under Indian Wells but the Ukrainian withdrew before the match. Tsurenko said she had suffered a panic attack, and then explained that she had left the walkover after she spoke to WTA chief executive Steve Simon about the organisation's stance on Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.
'Really aggressive towards us'
Sabalenka says she initially had a hard time dealing with the mood in the locker room.
"I'm still talking to some of the Ukrainians, but there are some of the girls who are really aggressive towards us. So I stay away from them.
The Russian and Belarusian players were suspended from last year's Wimbledon tournament by British organisers but Sabalenka says she hopes a change of stance this year.
"I was really sad about the decision (last year), but I can't control their decision. And I really hope they let us play this year.