Aryna Sabalenka could end the French Open as world number one but accepts she will begin it against a player who “hates” her.The Belarusian won her first grand slam title at the Australian Open and has maintained the momentum, winning the Madrid Open earlier this month and closing the gap on Iga Swiatek at the top of the rankings.Winning a second successive major crown would guarantee Sabalenka the number one spot for the first time but first up comes what will be an awkward encounter against Marta Kostyuk.Kostyuk has been the most outspoken Ukrainian player about the sport’s response to the invasion of her home country by Russia and believes Russian and Belarusian players should have been willing to condemn their nations’ actions.She refuses to shake hands with players from the two countries at the end of matches, but Sabalenka insisted that will not bother her, saying: “I kind of can understand them.“I imagine (if) they’re going to shake hands with Russians and Belarusians then they’re going to get so many messages from their home country.
At the same time, I feel like sports shouldn’t be in politics.“We’re just athletes. If they feel good with no shaking hands, I’m happy with that.“I don’t want to waste my energy on this kind of stuff.
It’s none of my business. So, if she hates me, OK. I can’t do anything about that.“There is going to be people who love me, there is going to be people who hate me.
If she hates me, I don’t feel anything like that to her.”Sabalenka has won arguably the two best matches of the season, beating Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open final and Swiatek to triumph in Madrid.Between them, Sabalenka, Swiatek and Rybakina have won seven of the biggest titles of the season so far and hold all fourRead more on independent.co.uk