Explained why did Aryna Sabalenka compete under a no or neutral flag at the Australian Open 2023 and what is her country

Explained why did Aryna Sabalenka compete under a no or neutral flag at the Australian Open 2023 and what is her country

24-year-old Belarus native Aryna Sabalenka managed to beat Elena Rybakina to win the 2023 Australian Open, find out why she played under a neutral or no flag, match details and record, off-court issues, and more

Aryna’s Australian Open victory against the current Wimbledon champion Elena also marks her first Grand Slam singles title.

Explained why did Aryna Sabalenka compete under a no or neutral flag at the Australian Open tennis 2023 and what is her country

Sabalenka’s first Grand Slam title is also the first ever Grand Slam singles title won by a player competing under a neutral flag.

Aryna Sabalenka vs Elena Rybakina match details and record

Aryna managed to win past Elena with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 record. Sabalenka lost the first set but managed to overcome Rybakina in the following sets. Aryna, the current world No. 5 delivered altogether 17 aces and she won 72% of the points during her first serve.

Her dramatic victory also won her the prize money worth around $2 million (€1.8 million). Prior to this win, Sabalenka had lost three Grand Slam semifinals.

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A bizarre victory

Despite the victory, Sabalenka did not get to have “Belarus” on the winner’s trophy next to her name. Moreover, she played throughout the tournament without her flag next to her name. This is because the Belarusian government is currently a supporter of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Due to this reason, the Australian Open had earlier announced that Russian and Belarusian players will not get to compete under their country’s flag or name. Last year, players from these two countries were even banned from competing at Wimbledon.

The Belarus tennis federation however, quickly extended their congratulations towards the country’s second tennis Grand Slam winner. When reporters asked Sabalenka after the match about whether competing under a neural flag took something away from the triumph, she simply replied bluntly satting:

I think everyone still knows that I’m Belarusian player. That’s it.

We’re just athletes playing their sport

Last year in December, ahead of the Australian Open 2023, Sabalenka shared with Australian newspaper “The Age” about playing under a neutral flag. She shared how playing under a neutral flag in Melbourne has made her feel as though she came “from nowhere.”

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She further added:

I’m just really disappointed sport is somehow in politics,” the 24-year-old continued. “We’re just athletes playing their sport. That’s it. We’re not about politics. If all of us could do something, we would do it, but we have zero control.

Sabalenka added:

They banned us from Wimbledon, and what did it change? It’s really terrible because nobody supports the war, nobody.

A series of off-court issues

The 2023 Australian Open has witnessed a series of off-court issues. Just recently, Andy Murray expressed his frustration about player welfare, which sparked a lot of conversation around playing times.

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More recently, Novak Djokovic’s his father got a lot of criticism for posing in a photo with a man holding a Russian flag with President Vladimir Putin’s face on it. Djokovic claimed that the media and officials ‘misinterpreted’ his actions.

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