Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus disposed of Karolina Pliskova in two sets on Wednesday night and then revealed that the Wimbledon ban on Russians and Belarusians has provided her with fuel to reach the US Open semifinals for the second year running.
Though tennis stars from Russia and Belarus are allowed to perform under neutral status on the ATP and WTA tours, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) decided to ban them from Wimbledon in the summer as a response to the military operation in Ukraine.
The ATP and WTA then stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in response to the «discriminatory» ban, which is said to have influenced the AELTC’s Stateside counterpart, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), not to follow suit in New York.
That means the likes of Russia’s Karen Khachanov and Belarusian Sabalenka have been allowed to reach the last four in the men’s and women’s singles at Flushing Meadows – and Sabalenka revealed how the treatment from Wimbledon organizers has inspired her to go even further than her semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Leylah Fernandez last year.
Furthermore, Sabalenka felt put out that Wimbledon deprived her of the chance to improve on her semifinal run there in summer last year, where Pliskova beat her and then lost in the final to Ashleigh Barty.
«They took away one opportunity from me, so I worked really hard for this one,» Sabalenka said after getting her revenge over Czech Pliskova.
«I’m just an athlete and I have nothing to do with politics,» Sabalenka insisted.
«It was a tough time, especially when I was working out in the gym and there was Wimbledon playing on the TV.
«I always turned it off because I couldn’t watch it.»
Explaining her performance, where she blasted seven aces and 30 winners past Pliskova, Sabalenka said she «expected a great level with long rallies» but «wanted to stay in the match and make her work.»
«When she’s playing the way she is, there are not many rallies where you can get in that better feeling. She was serving amazing,» admitted Pliskova afterwards.
As a consequence of her victory, Sabalenka will face world number one and reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who beat Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals.
Before she knew who awaited her, Sabalenka described both women as «tough opponents» and said she would have to «fight and do my best» to advance.
«I’m ready for a great battle,» the 24-year-old further stated.
Ukrainian refuses handshake with Belarusian rival at US Open
Having lost three times to Swiatek this year without claiming a single set, a battle is what Sabalenka will have on her hands on Thursday night.
Making her own history, Swiatek is the first Polish woman to reach the last four at the New York Grand Slam in the modern era and is the only major title winner left in the competition while boasting a 54-win match season that has brought her six trophies so far.
Elsewhere in the draw, Caroline Garcia and Ons Jabeur will fight to meet either Sabalenka or Swiatek in the final.
You can share this story on social media: