Australian Open: Azarenka unhappy with 'provocative' probing on pro-Russia demonstration

By Sports Desk January 26, 2023

Victoria Azarenka was not impressed with being asked a "provocative question" about a pro-Russia demonstration at the Australian Open after her semi-final defeat to Elena Rybakina.

Azarenka's quest to end a 10-year wait for a third grand slam singles title ended when the Belarusian was beaten 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 by the Wimbledon champion on Thursday.

The 33-year-old's loss on Rod Laver Arena came after Novak Djokovic's father, Srdjan, was seen with supporters of Russian president Vladimir Putin at Melbourne Park.

Pro-Putin agitators staged a rally outside Rod Laver Arena, after Djokovic beat Russian Andrey Rublev to reach the last four on Wednesday, with four people later questioned by police following allegations that security guards were threatened.

Rublev has previously expressed his opposition to Russia's war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing since last February.

Putin supporters chanted and carried Serbian and Russian flags. One man appeared to be wearing a T-shirt adorned with the letter 'Z' – used as a pro-war symbol in Russia.

Srdjan Djokovic was seen standing with the group alongside a man holding a Russian flag with Putin's face on it. According to reports, he said: "Long live the Russians."

Tennis Australia banned Russian and Belarusian flags from being taken into grounds, after a spectator was reported to security for displaying one during a match between Ukraine's Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova.

Azarenka was not happy with being asked about political issues during her post-match press conference.

She told a reporter: "You're here talking about it right now, so obviously it's a topic you want to continue to bring up and up and up again. I don't know what you want me to say."

Asked if Djokovic might be affected by the incident, Azarenka replied: "I don't know what it has to do with Novak at all, to be fair, so...

"I've spoken to actually a security guard today who was walking me to practice every day. I've known him for years. I just asked him what was the accident [sic]. He explained to me.

"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.

"So what's the goal here? I think you should ask yourself that question, not me.

"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 to. So does it bother me? What bothers me is there's real things that's going on in the world. I don't know. Are you a politician? Are you? Are you covering politics?"

When the reporter said: "No, I'm a sports journalist", Azarenka responded by saying: "And I'm an athlete. 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."

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