Playing my grieving best friend Aryna Sabalenka will be uncomfortable, says Paula Badosa

Sabalenka’s boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov died in Miami on Monday at the age of 42

Eleanor Crooks
Wednesday 20 March 2024 11:33 GMT
Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka are best friends away from the court
Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka are best friends away from the court (EPA)

Paula Badosa admits it will be “uncomfortable” facing best friend Aryna Sabalenka at the Miami Open following the tragic death of the world No 2’s boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov.

Sabalenka was pictured on social media practising on Tuesday a day after 42-year-old former ice hockey player Koltsov died in Miami in what police described as an “apparent suicide”.

Her first match is due to be on Thursday against Spaniard Badosa, who defeated Simona Halep on the Romanian’s return from a doping ban.

Badosa said of Sabalenka: “Yesterday I spoke with her a lot of time. This morning the same. So I know what she’s going through. I know the entire situation, what is happening.

“That for me is a little bit shocking also to go through that because at the end, she’s my best friend and I don’t want her to suffer. It’s a very tough situation.

“At the same point, playing against her, it’s also uncomfortable. But I don’t really want to talk about it because I said I’m not going to talk about it. She’s my best friend and I promised that.

“She’s a strong woman. I think she will get the power from somewhere. I hope it’s going to be a battle, a good match.”

Badosa and Sabalenka are good friends away from the court (Getty Images)

Caroline Wozniacki became emotional talking about the situation during her press conference, the Dane saying: “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now.

“I’m also tearing up. It’s such a terrible situation. It’s so hard. I reached out to her and I told her that I was here if she needed anything.

“I love Aryna. I think she’s such a great person. She’s always so happy and out there. To see her go through that, it’s heartbreaking.

“Everyone grieves in a different way. She was walking past today. I was giving her her space. I let her know that if she ever needs anything, I’m here, we’re here for her.”

Koltsov, who played in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, had been a regular presence supporting Sabalenka at tournaments.

The news was announced by Russian ice hockey team Salavat Yulaev Ufa, where Koltsov had been assistant coach.

A statement on the club’s website read: “It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that Salavat Yulaev coach Konstantin Koltsov has passed away. He was a strong and cheerful person, he was loved and respected by players, colleagues, and fans.

“Konstantin Evgenievich forever wrote himself into the history of our club. Koltsov won the Russian Championship and the Gagarin Cup as part of Salavat Yulaev and did a great job on the team’s coaching staff.

“The hockey club Salavat Yulaev expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Konstantin Evgenievich Koltsov.”

It is the second tragedy to hit 25-year-old Sabalenka, whose father Sergey, also a former ice hockey player, died in 2019 at the age of 43.

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