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Aryna Sabalenka triumphs in emotionally charged return to tennis following boyfriend's tragic passing

Posted : 23 March 2024

World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka made a poignant return to the court following the recent loss of her former boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov, as she triumphed over Spain's Paula Badosa with a composed performance, clinching a 6-4, 6-3 victory. Despite enduring six hours of rain delays, Sabalenka, donning an all-black attire, exhibited remarkable emotional composure, a sentiment shared by her close friend Badosa, who mirrored her choice of outfit.


Expressing her heartbreak over Koltsov's passing earlier in the week, Sabalenka clarified that they were not together at the time of his apparent suicide, which occurred in Miami, where he tragically jumped from a resort balcony. Koltsov, a former NHL ice hockey player and coach, was 42 years old, leaving behind a mournful Sabalenka to navigate her grief amidst her return to professional tennis.


Despite a slow start, Sabalenka seized control of the match with a break to lead 4-3 in the first set, maintaining dominance throughout. Displaying her trademark power, she secured a crucial break early in the second set, ultimately overpowering her opponent in a brisk one hour and twenty-two minutes. Following the match, both players shared a heartfelt embrace at the net before departing without participating in on-court interviews, as Sabalenka requested to be excused from media duties during the tournament.


Badosa, acknowledging Sabalenka's unwavering strength and focus, lauded her friend's resilience, affirming her expectation of Sabalenka's stellar performance. Despite the emotional challenge of facing a close friend on the court, Badosa expressed her support for Sabalenka's journey in the tournament, reflecting on the discomfort but also the mutual respect that characterized their encounter.


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