Talk to the press after her defeat in the semi-finals of the 2023 Australian Open, Victoria Azarenka was annoyed by journalists who questioned her about tensions linked to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. The two-time champion at Melbourne said: “you continue to train players there”.
As a Belarusian, Azarenka played the Australian Open under a neutral flag, given that her country is considered an ally of Russia in the war against Ukraine. When asked if the situation affected her, the former world number one replied that it was journalists who constantly brought up the subject and created tension.
JOURNALIST: Many Russian and Belarusian players have come under scrutiny here. I’m sure even if you hadn’t looked at social media you would have seen that there was an incident with Novak’s father last night. Is it difficult for you, when you go out, to put all these things out of your mind? Do you think there are other players affected by this?
VIKA: Hm… other players are impacted by… what exactly are you asking me?
JOURNALIST: Distractions eluded them and constant news and discussions.
VIKA: Who does the news come from?
JOURNALIST: Well, from everyone. Social networks. Everybody talks about it.
VIKA: You’re here talking about it right now. Obviously, this is a topic you want to keep bringing up again and again. So, I don’t know what you want me to say.
Additionally, Azarenka was asked about the incident involving Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan, who was photography with supporters of Vladimir Putin after his son’s quarter-final victory against Russian Andreï Rublev. Angered by the political issues, Azarenka said she did not see how the events were linked to Novak himself.
VIKA: I don’t know what you want us to do. Talk about that? I don’t know what the point is here…that this is continually brought up. These incidents that I think have nothing to do with the players, but somehow you keep dragging the players into it. So…what’s the point here? I think you should ask yourself this question. Not me.
As journalists continued to raise provocative political questions, Azarenka explained that any answer she gave could be misinterpreted and presented at the whim of the press. Athletes should stay away from things beyond their control, the Belarusian concluded.