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Tennis Stars Unite In Solidarity For Aryna Sabalenka’s Loss

Members of the tennis community have united in support of Aryna Sabalenka, the Belarusian world No. 2, following the passing of her former partner, ex-professional ice hockey player Konstantin Koltsov.

Koltsov, known for his 144 games with the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, tragically passed away, confirmed by the Miami-Dade Police Department as an “apparent suicide,” with no suspicion of foul play.

The 42-year-old Koltsov, also from Belarus, died just days ahead of Sabalenka’s appearance at the Miami Open.

“Konstantin’s death is an unimaginable tragedy, and though we had parted ways, my heart aches,” expressed Sabalenka in a statement on Wednesday. “Please respect my privacy and his family’s during this challenging period.”

Due to her ranking, Sabalenka received a first-round bye in the tournament. She is slated to face her close friend, Spain’s Paula Badosa, in the second round.

“She’s one of my closest friends,” Badosa shared with reporters after defeating Simona Halep. “Yesterday, I spent a lot of time talking with her. This morning too. So, I understand what she’s enduring. I’m aware of the whole situation, and it’s shocking to me because, ultimately, she’s my best friend, and I don’t want to see her suffer. It’s a very difficult situation. Yet, playing against her, it’s also uncomfortable.”

Koltsov, who had represented Belarus in two Winter Olympics and played three seasons in the NHL, had been coaching with the Russian ice hockey team Salavat Yulaev.

He frequently accompanied two-time Australian Open champion Sabalenka on her tennis tours across the globe. According to reports, their relationship began in June 2021.

Former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki also commented on Koltsov’s passing following her victory against Clara Burel at the Miami Open.

“I can’t even fathom what she’s experiencing right now,” expressed Wozniacki. “I’m choked up just thinking about it. It’s such a devastating situation. It’s incredibly difficult. I reached out to her to let her know I’m here if she needs anything.

“I adore Aryna. She’s such a wonderful person. Always so cheerful and outgoing. Seeing her endure this is heart-wrenching. I can’t begin to comprehend her pain right now. Everyone copes differently.

“She walked by today, and I gave her space. I wanted her to know that if she ever needs anything, I’m here, we’re here for her.”

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