Wednesday , June 7 2023

Beaten star bristles at Djokovic question

By Simon Brunsdon and Emily Patterson

Beaten star Victoria Azarenka bristled in her post-match press conference when pressed on tennis’ relationship with Russia’s war on Ukraine.

The ugly issue reared its head again when Novak Djokovic‘s father was filmed posing with pro-Putin activists outside Melbourne Park on Wednesday night.

After losing her semi-final to Elena Rybakina, journalists pressed Azarenka on how such an incident may affect Djokovic and other players.

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Azarenka is one of several players who are not allowed to represent Russia or Belarus on tour, instead competing as neutral athletes.

”I don’t know what it has to do with Novak at all, to be fair,” she said.

“I don’t know what you guys want us to do about it. Like talk about it? I don’t know what’s the goal here that it’s continuously brought up.

“These incidents that in my opinion have nothing to do with players, but somehow you keep dragging players into it.

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She asked reporters what “the goal” was behind such questions.

“I think you should ask yourself that question, not me,” she said.

“Whatever the answer I’m going to give to you right now, it’s going to be turned whichever way you want to turn it.

“So does it bother me? What bothers me is there are real things that are going on in the world. I don’t know. Are you a politician? Are you? Are you covering politics?”

The journalist said “no”.

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“And I’m an athlete,” Azarenka continued.

“You’re asking me about things that maybe somebody says are in my control, but I don’t believe that.

“I don’t know what you want me to answer. If it’s a provocative question, then you can spin the story however you want.”

The debate around Russians and Belarusians competing at this year’s Australian Open was again thrown into the spotlight when Djokovic’s father, Srdjan, was filmed at a pro-Russia rally outside the precinct.

In the footage posted to YouTube by user Simeon Boiko, Srdjan was greeted by a group of pro-Russia protesters – four of whom were earlier expelled from Melbourne Park by police after reportedly threatening security.

He posed for photos next to Russian flags – including one bearing the face of president Vladamir Putin – and with a man wearing a shirt emblazoned with the infamous “Z” symbol.

On Thursday, the Australian Olympic Committee backed the International Olympic Committee’s decision to continue sanctions against Russia and Belarus, including players from those nation’s being forced to compete at international sports events as neutral athletes.

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