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Sabalenka Says Wimbledon Ban Gave Her Extra Motivation For New York

NEW YORK - Wimbledon's decision to ban Belarusian athletes from this year's grasscourt major gave Aryna Sabalenka extra motivation to do well at this month's U.S. Open.

Wimbledon organisers banned players from Russian and Belarus this year due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. Belarus if a key staging area for the invasion, which Russia calls a 'special military operation'. The players from the two countries were also blocked from competing British grasscourt events in the build - up to the tournament.

'It was tough time, especially when I was working out in the gym and there was Wimbledon playing on the TV. I was always turning it off because I couldn't watch it', said Belarus's Sabalenka, who beat Czech Karolina Pliskova to reach the U.S. Open semi - final Wednesday.

'But it was tough time, and I worked so hard'.

Sabalenka reached the Wimbledon semi - final a year ago and is on the hunt for her first major title.

'They took away one opportunity from me and I worked really hard for this one', she told reporters.

The year's final major has not been immune to moments of political tension after U.S. Open organisers allowed players from Russia and Belarus to compete, albeit under neutral flags - - a move that was met with criticism from some Ukrainian athletes.

Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk refused to shake hands with Belarusian Victoria Azarenka after losing in the second round as she felt it would not have been 'the right thing to do'.

'Everyone's trying to be super diplomatic about this thing. My nation is being killed daily', said Kostyuk.



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