Aryna Sabalenka hopes to face Victoria Azarenka in an all-Belarussian final at the Australian Open

Aryna Sabalenka is aiming for an all-Belarussian final against Victoria Azarenka at the Australian Open

Aryna Sabalenka claims she "really wants" to make history by pitting Victoria Azarenka against another Belarusian in the Australian Open final.

On Thursday, the two-time champion Azarenka will face Elena Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion from Kazakhstan.

Second-round opponent Magda Linette of Poland is Sabalenka, the fifth seed.

But two Belarusians vying for a Grand Slam title would probably spark more debate about a contentious political issue in sports.

Numerous sports governing bodies have banned Belarusian athletes as a result of their nation's support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

No one supports war, according to Sabalenka, who added that she was "really disappointed" that politics had gotten in the way of sport after Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from Wimbledon in 2017.

When asked what it would be like to compete against Azarenka in the Melbourne final, Sabalenka said: "It would be history and unbelievable.

"I sincerely hope it happens. I'm confident that Vika will exert every effort to make it happen. To ensure that it occurs, I will exert every effort. ".

At 08:30 GMT, former world No. 1 Azarenka takes on 22nd seed Rybakina in an attempt to win her third Melbourne crown.

Sabalenka, who has lost all three of her previous Grand Slam semi-final matches, is the favorite to defeat Linette, a 30-year-old unseeded player who has never advanced past the third round of a major.

the persistent political issue in sports.

Victoria Azarenka
In 2012 and 2013, Victoria Azarenka took home the Australian Open championship.

Tennis players from Belarus and Russia are permitted to compete, but not under their respective flags.

Karen Khachanov, a Russian player, has also advanced to the men's singles semifinals in Melbourne.

The All England Club, which oversees Wimbledon, has not yet indicated whether it plans to continue banning players from Russia and Belarus from competing this year.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and the AELTC were both fined for player bans from the previous year, and the tournament lost its ranking points.

Russian and Belarusian players should be permitted to compete, according to American legend Billie Jean King, who has 12 major singles titles and is a leading proponent of equality in sport.

Keep it the same as the other ones, King advised. Life is too brief. ".

Sabalenka, who made it to the Wimbledon quarterfinals in 2021, said the effects of the political decisions "a lot" affected her and are "still difficult" to deal with.

"I realize that I'm not to blame. No power lies in my hands. Sabalenka, who also advanced to the quarterfinals at the US Opens in 2021 and 2022, said: "If I could do anything, of course I would do it, but I cannot do anything.

"Having this knowledge has been extremely helpful in keeping me strong. ".

At the Australian Open, security personnel have been told to take away Russian and Belarusian flags from spectators.

After spectators waved Russian flags, including one with Vladimir Putin's face on it, on Wednesday, police had to step in when tournament security guards were threatened.

Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Rybakina, like Sabalenka and Azarenka, has had to defend the decisions made by tennis' governing bodies.

Rybakina was born in Moscow but changed sides in 2018 after receiving more financial aid from Kazakhstan.

Although Russians were prohibited from competing after her Wimbledon victory, she stated earlier this week that there was "nothing more to say" about the matter.

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