Victoria Azarenka, the former world number one tennis player, battled with journalists at the Australian Open who attempted to ask her political questions.
Azarenka, a Belarusian, was quizzed after her loss in the Australian Open semi-finals last week by a reporter who asked her about the scrutiny that Russian and Belarusian players received, as a result of their countries being involved in the current conflict in Ukraine.
One example discussed was that the father of eventual men’s champion, Novak Djokovic, posed together with demonstrators holding a pro-Putin symbol, following his victory in the quarter-final match. The senior Djokovic apologised, and did not watch any further matches from the court.
The first journalist posed to Azarenka if she got impacted by the “distractions” resulting from the news.
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“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,” Azarenka said. “These incidents that in my opinion have nothing to do with players, but somehow you keep dragging players into it. So what’s the goal here? I think you should ask yourself that question, not me.”
Another journalist jumped in, asking the tennis star if it frustrated her that “there was a clear sort of pro-Russian demonstration happening within the grounds of the tournament, that these people are coming and using the Australian Open as a platform for these kind of demonstrations.”
After a long pause, the tennis star responded, slapping the journalists down and accusing them of political goals.
“Whatever the answer I’m going to give it to you right now, it’s going to be turned whichever way you want to turn it to. So does it bother me? What bothers me is there’s real things that’s going on in the world, and I don’t know, are you a politician?” she asked.
When the journalist responded that she was simply a sports journalist, Azarenka replied that she was just an athlete.
“You’re asking me about things that maybe somebody says are in my control, but I don’t believe that,” she added. “So I don’t know what you want me to answer, and if it’s a provocative question, then you can spin the story however you want.”
Clay Travis, of the sport news site Outkick, praised Azarenka for calling out the “left wing sports media” for asking political questions purely designed for them able to spin their own “left wing opinons” in their reporting.
“I’d love to see athletes asked these questions flip it back on the sports media member,” Travis tweeted.